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Ottawa Attacks Highlight Diversity of Threats and Preparedness Needs

Once a terror event advances to a stage of implementation and remains outside the view of federal authorities it becomes increasingly likely that state and local law enforcement will comprise the last line of defense.

OTTAWA, CANADA - OCTOBER 22: An Ottawa police officer stands guard on Wellington St. after a shooting occurred at the National War Memorial near the Canadian Parliament October 22, 2014 in Ottawa, Canada. Officials are investigating multiple reports of shootings and suspects after at least one gunman shot a Canadian soldier and then entered Canada's Parliament building. Mike Carroccetto/Getty Images

Details continue to emerge surrounding the deadly shootings that struck the Canadian capital of Ottawa on Wednesday morning; however, authorities revealed the shooter to be Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Muslim convert who was killed in an volley of gunfire after storming Parliament.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that the terror attack was a “grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the attacks that happened around the world.”

The shooting at Parliament came just days after two Canadian soldiers were run down by a man whom authorities described as being “radicalized” and who had been previously investigated as a potential threat to society.

Although Zehaf-Bibeau was shot and killed after entering the Parliament building local police nonetheless spent countless additional hours searching large swaths of downtown Ottawa in an attempt to locate additional suspects.

OTTAWA, CANADA - OCTOBER 22: An Ottawa police officer runs across Wellington St. near the National War Memorial where a soldier was shot earlier in the day, just blocks away from Parliament Hill, on October 22, 2014 in Ottawa, Canada. Officials are investigating multiple reports of shootings and suspects after at least one gunman shot a Canadian soldier and then entered Canada's Parliament building. Mike Carroccetto/Getty Images OTTAWA, CANADA - OCTOBER 22: An Ottawa police officer runs across Wellington St. near the National War Memorial where a soldier was shot earlier in the day, just blocks away from Parliament Hill, on October 22, 2014 in Ottawa, Canada. Mike Carroccetto/Getty Images

Initial reports suggested that multiple gunmen might have be involved in a coordinated attack against multiple targets within Ottawa. Whether Zehaf-Bibeau acted alone, in the capacity of a lone-wolf, or with the assistance of a small number of co-perpetrators remains to be seen.

An attack such as this, which I discussed recently at The Blaze, requires far less sophistication or access to advanced weaponry and remains at the vanguard of the myriad threats facing both the American homeland and those of her respective allies.

The Ottawa assault comes in the wake of increased chatter among Islamic State militants promoting attacks against law enforcement and military targets inside the United States. Those threats prompted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to increase the alert level at all field offices.

The shootings also occurred on the same day that Terrance Gainer, former chief of the United States Capitol Police, expressed his concern over the scarcity of security barriers protecting the United States Capitol building complex.

In an interview with Roll Call, Gainer stated, “The only people that have left their campus open is the Capitol. Now, I get people wanting to be open, but people have to somehow understand there are constant threats and if the only way to mitigate the threat is have an officer chase after the bad guy, you’re going to end up having problems.”

The often literal and figurative openness of Western democratic institutions offers an appealing target to those intent on maximizing the psychological impact of an act of terror.

The deadly shootings in Ottawa have also underscored the need to ensure that our nation’s domestic law enforcement infrastructure is adequately equipped and trained to handle dynamic incidents of domestic terrorism. An attack along these lines can occur at any time and in the most unlikely places.

Significant strides in state and local preparedness were achieved following the attacks of 9/11. Officers today are far better trained and equipped to address the potentiality of a dynamic act of terror striking the American homeland.

State and local law enforcement must continue to prepare for the unexpected and actively partner with their federal counterparts in an attempt to identify and address domestic threats, especially those related to terror. This includes continued participation in the Department of Defense’s 1033 program which allows state and local law enforcement to procure appropriate surplus military equipment.

Of course, adequate training and guidelines for use must accompany any equipment acquired by law enforcement to ensure that such equipment is not inappropriately used nor objectively unnecessary.

The United States has a tremendous counterterrorism and intelligence apparatus designed to identify and prevent burgeoning acts of terror. But no system is perfect, especially when up against a lone-wolf terrorist or small group of perpetrators.

Once a terror event advances to a stage of implementation and remains outside the view of federal authorities it becomes increasingly likely that state and local law enforcement will comprise the last line of defense. For this eventuality, vigilance and preparedness must not be compromised.

Scott G. Erickson is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati and is a conservative writer and law enforcement professional from California. He can be found at www.scottgerickson.com or @SGErickson

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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