Sheriff discusses online security alert posted publicly to employees
COCHISE COUNTY, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels is discussing an alert published on the agency's Facebook page Sunday night, May 22, telling employees to "remain vigilant."
The post reads in part:
"Sheriff's Office command staff are advising all office staff to remain vigilant, be aware of your surroundings, and be cautious. This may not be an isolated incident and it is our best interest to be pay close attention to your offices and people around you in the field."
The post was made in response to a shooting at a sheriff's substation in Maricopa County. Investigators arrested a man accused of driving up to the substation in Surprise and shooting at a deputy on Friday, May 20. The deputy was not hurt thanks to bullet-proof glass at the station's entrance. Sheriff Joe Arpaio called the attack an "ambush."
"This is a reminder to all of us. This is a dangerous job and we're vulnerable in many ways, but we want to be guarded and make sure we're taking care of ourselves," Dannels said.
While there is no specific threat to local law enforcement, Dannels said his agency communicates with other agencies about safety concerns.
"Unfortunately we worry about trends, copy-catting going on. You shoot at a sheriff's office in Maricopa County, we also take that very serious," Dannels said. "Am I concerned there's people out there, that less than one-percent that wants to harm us? You bet I am. It's one of my biggest concerns as a sheriff, is that one of my people will be harmed."
When asked why the alert went out publicly on social media rather than an internal memo, Dannels said it's all about community partnership.
"Our community needs to know this, too. Because we are our own eyes and ears looking for things that aren't right. Our public does that for us, too. They may even see the harm before it gets to us."
Tucson News Now checked with other local law enforcement agencies to see if changes will be made following the substation shooting in Maricopa County. Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos said he would hope to be briefed by Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies if a similar threat was possible in southern Arizona.
Nanos said attacks on law enforcement are a concern and would be discussed in meetings Monday with command staff. He admits measures to bolster security at substations may be necessary to make sure everyone is safe, but such improvements can be costly, especially as the county works to resolve overall budget issues.
Tucson police have had recent issues with threats at their stations. Back in January, investigators say a man who claimed to be armed with weapons and explosives parked an RV outside the Miracle Mile substation leading to a standoff that lasted hours.
Then in April the bomb squad was called out when, investigators say, someone showed up at TPD headquarters downtown claiming they had items for police. Officers say they walked out to the person's car and saw something inside they felt could have been dangerous.
When asked about stepped-up security in light of the shooting in Maricopa County, a TPD spokeswoman said discussions about safety and security happen among employees on a regular basis.
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