Senator Greenfield Calls Trooper Political Lackey

South Dakota Highway Patrol Major Dana Svendsen testified against Senate Bill 162 Thursday. That bill was Senator Brock Greenfield's (R-2/Clark) attempt to allow certain trained legislators to carry weapons in the South Dakota Capitol during Session as a back-up security force.

Major Svendsen has been in charge of security at the Capitol since 2002, during which time no legislator has suffered an assault or other crime that I know of on Capitol grounds. Major Svendsen testified (starting at 19:10 in this SDPB archived audio) that Senate Bill 162 had numerous flaws. On the technical side, he said SB 162 appeared to have been prepared without consultation with the Attorney General (and Senator Greenfield subsequently confirmed that he had not discussed the bill with the AG or with the Department of Public Safety, of which the HP is a part). Major Svendsen said the bill did not contain funding for the Attorney General's office to administer the training program.

Moving to the heart of the Highway Patrol's concerns, Major Svendsen said SB 162 posed a grave security risk by keeping secret from law enforcement the identity of armed legislators. Officers moving into an active-shooter situation who see unknown civilians firing weapons have to make a split-second decision about those shooters' intent. "This scenario has the potential to end very badly," said the Highway Patrol major. Major Svendsen did not directly address Senator Greenfield's comment earlier in the hearing that he knows multiple legislators who illegally carry guns in the Capitol, but it would appear Major Svendsen and his troopers already face that very dangerous scenario.

Major Svendsen said that the Highway Patrol takes its responsibility for Capitol security very seriously and that it would be a mistake to pass that duty off to legislators. "Anyone can hit a target when they're not under stress," said Major Svendsen, who called into question whether the training called for in SB 162 would be sufficient to address the threats Senator Greenfield targeted. Major Svendsen said troopers undergo continual training, not just target practice, but training in shoot-don't-shoot situations and in dealing with unstable people. Troopers are trained to be constantly mindful of the fact that every situation they enter has a gun involved, since they carry guns into every situation. "Bad people will try to take that gun away from you and use it against you," warned Major Svendsen. "If a person isn't trained for that or trained to have that mindset, who knows what could happen."

To these valid administrative and security concerns, Senator Greenfield rebutted thus:

The gentleman who just came forward has a job to do, and that job is to create doubt about... a bill that the administration doesn't agree with [Senator Brock Greenfield, rebuttal, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, South Dakota State Legislature, Pierre, South Dakota, 2015.02.12, timestamp 23:30].

Senator Greenfield hears practical security concerns from the man who has successfully managed Capitol security for over a decade and dismisses them as mere political lackeyism.

Senator Greenfield proceeded in his rebuttal to ignore most of the points Major Svendsen raised. The Senator said he would be happy to consult with the Attorney General, but whined (I don't think that verb exaggerates) that he didn't hear any opposition to SB 162 until after 4 p.m. the day before this hearing, leaving "no time for me to work with them." Senator Greenfield claimed that since the Department of Public Safety didn't take a position on the school gunslinger bill in 2013, he could reasonably assume that the Department of Public Safety wouldn't take a position against a bill arming civilians in a building over which they have direct responsibility for security.

Senate Judiciary wisely killed this ill-thought-out bill Thursday. Senator Greenfield showed not just a thoughtless disregard for expert opinion but a serious and selfish disrespect for the law enforcement officers who will risk their lives to keep him safe.