Homeland security conference underway in Buffalo

Interim Dallas Police Chief recalls deadly ambush of officers

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The threat of terrorism is constantly evolving.

Top security experts are gathering in Buffalo this week to share, listen and learn from other agencies.

“It’s going to continue. We have a fight and we’re going to be out there every day,” said David Godfrey, a Niagara County legislator and chair of the public safety committee.

“We’re at war, and we have been every single day since 9/11. It’s important that we recognize that and we do our diligence,” Godfrey added.

Around 1,500 first responders in fire, police, emergency medical services and health are in town attending the National Homeland Security Conference at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

Among them, interim Dallas Police Chief David Pughes, who shared some of the lessons learned from an ambush on police officers in downtown Dallas nearly a year ago.

He says it’s the biggest tragedy that his department ever encountered.

Four Dallas police officers and a rapid transit officer died after they were ambushed by a lone gunman.

“His entire goal and aim was to kill law enforcement officers,” said Pughes.

Pughes knows firsthand the reality of managing a chaotic active shooter situation.

“The shots are echoing everywhere so everybody believes that there’s multiple shooters coming from every direction, shooting police officers. Nobody knows where it’s coming from or why they’re being targeted,” he recalled.

“Turns out it’s one guy. The problem is you never know until it’s over if it’s one individual or five individuals because the reports that are coming in are telling us that there’s people all over,” Pughes explained.

Pughes says one big take away from the Dallas Police ambush; be prepared and equipped to deal with assault rifles.

“Unfortunately, none of our individuals that were working that night had heavy vests or helmets that would have protected them from those rounds,” he said. “Ensure that your officers have access to special ballistic armor because that’s what we’re up against now.”

Pughes hopes other agencies can learn from the deadly ambush and use those lessons if they ever face a similar situation.

“Once something like that happens, you can imagine trying to persuade people to take cover, get out of the way and calm down is an absolutely difficult task,” he explained.

Dallas Fire-Rescue Chief David Coatney says agencies need to be collaborative in their approach.

“What are we doing well? What are we not doing well? And be honest with yourself and make sure you share that information,” Coatney said.

Preventing attacks in the modern era is challenging, but stakeholders are eager to gain the upper hand.

Daniel Neaverth, commissioner of Erie County Emergency Services, says the primary focus is taking care of the public.

“They’re not going to care whether you’re with a particular law enforcement agency or a particular fire agency. If there’s something going wrong they expect, and rightfully so, that their needs are being addressed,” Neaverth said.

Neaverth says it’s a very dynamic picture that constantly has to be updated.

The three-day conference will wrap up on Thursday.

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