Law enforcement prepares for lone-wolf attacks in U.S.

Law enforcement prepares for lone-wolf attacks in U.S.

When a gunman took hostages at a cafe a half a world away in Sydney, Australia, it brought home the reality of what law enforcement in the United States has received warnings about for months.

The gunman, Man Haron Monis, who is originally from Iran, held the occupants of a busy cafe hostage for more than 16 hours. He appears to have a connection to ISIS, the radical organization that has called for lone-wolf-type attacks against western countries and their allies.

The challenge for law enforcement to stop these types of attacks is rooted in the secretive nature of them. If the attacker does not communicate their intentions to anyone, it is difficult for intelligence agencies to detect and stop them.

While detecting this type of attack is challenging for law enforcement in the United States, they have training for dealing with them.

“I think a lot of it is dealt with through training and preparation,” said Brian Landers, chair of the Criminal Justice Department at Madison College. “When people complain about the demilitarization of law enforcement one thing they are naïve to is one of these types of incidents. The agencies that do have rifles, high-powered equipment and armored vehicles, they have them for a reason and it is because they have been training and they are prepared in case this incident happens locally. They can respond.”

One tactical difference law enforcement faces dealing with hostage takers who are politically or religiously motivated is negotiations.

“When you have people that are either politically or religiously motivated then it is very tough to negotiate with those people. A lot of the time they are looking to cause a shock wave,” Landers said.

Police in Sydney raided the cafe after hearing a number of gunshots from inside. When it was over, two hostages and the gunman were dead. Three other hostages were wounded, as was one police officer.

The state police commissioner said police believed if they didn’t raid the cafe when they did, “there would have been many more lives lost.”

A measure of the concern about a similar attack in the U.S. can be seen in the words of Michael Morell, former CIA acting director when he said, “We are going to see this kind of attack here and we need to be prepared for that. It shouldn’t surprise people when this happens here sometime over the next year or so, guaranteed.