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Highway Patrol Major Raises Security Concerns about Armed Legislators

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.


  1. larry kurtz 2015.02.14

    Cory: you and Sancho Panza really should consider buying some guns.

  2. FB 2015.02.14

    Senator Greenfield, I use senator as respect to the position not necessarily to Brock, is a child. As any mature adult can tell by Senator Greefield's actions. His rebuttal in committee as well as other comments he makes as our senator show only his position not that of our legislative district. Major Svendsen, please accept my apology, I for one do not share Senator Brock Greenfield's same disrespect to you or your position. Thank you for your service to South Dakota for keeping our elected public officials safe as they do OUR work in the Capital.

  3. Tim 2015.02.14

    "training in shoot-don't-shoot situations and in dealing with unstable people"

    Unstable people seems to be an accurate description of the legislature. Anybody besides me noticing republican complete lack of respect for authority, when that authority doesn't agree with their position?

  4. grudznick 2015.02.14

    Is Major Svendsen a Republican?

  5. FB 2015.02.14

    Grud, what does Major Svendsen's party affiliation have to do with this discussion?

  6. Dyna Sluyter 2015.02.14

    These wanna be gun totin' legislators have been watching to many reruns of "Deadwood"!

  7. grudznick 2015.02.14

    Mr. FB, Tim said "Anybody besides me noticing republican complete lack of respect for authority, when that authority doesn't agree with their position?"

    I was wondering of Mr. Svendsen is a republican because he seemed to be very respectful with Mr. Greenfield who was fat and rude, from what I have read. If Mr. Svendsen is a republican then our friend Tim is just painting people with broom. I'm just sayin...

  8. jerry 2015.02.14

    Greenfield was just looking out for his NRA money. What a twerp. The major outranked the lad and put him in detention.

  9. Francis Schaffer 2015.02.14

    Tim I had the same thought. Can anyone confirm that Senator Greenfield slipped on the ice and broke his arm?

  10. Jim 2015.02.14

    Mr. Grudznicks, he only gets that way in the winter times. In summers I hear he is quite slim.

  11. Lynn 2015.02.14

    Listening to the testimony was fascinating. If you listen it is quite obvious the fear in Senator Brock Greenfield's voice which sounded like there is an obsession with paranoia that he or the chamber will get attacked or it could be that the pressure is just too great to be a legislator in Pierre for him.

    Another Senator made a very good point that he is in Pierre to focus on legislation and not be in a room with other armed legislators being distracted looking into the gallery or scanning for potential threats.

    Senator Greenfield if your thoughts are really pre-occupied with potential threats leading to sleep deprivation and your inability to be productive and making hard choices for South Dakotans please resign.

    You can remove that pressure of making someone mad from your time as a state Senator worrying that they will snap and go after you. There is nothing wrong with you going back to Clark and focusing your energy on your business. You can have that gun behind the counter at the gas station if needed.

  12. Tim 2015.02.14

    Well grudz, it's a good thing you don't paint with that broom sized brush when you talk about us libbies. Just to ask, why do you keep voting republican?

  13. Jim 2015.02.14

    I'm pretty sure I could probably take Betty's gun from her in about three seconds, using only my bare hands.

  14. 96Tears 2015.02.14

    It's remarkable that the SDHP Major must speak to and about Greenfield and his ilk as if they were indolent children.

  15. Jim 2015.02.14

    I'm concerned that Betty forgets she has her gun in purse, then she whaps somebody in the head with her purse, then the gun goes off and shoots Brock in the butt.

  16. Liberty Dick 2015.02.14

    Man's gotta stay relevant doesn't he? I mean if legislators had the means to defend themselves and call police when actually needed the poor major might have to go do something like patrol the roads or something... Chances are the situations presented by the major will be over by the time he gets there. Let's just forget about people's right to defend themselves arguments entirely.

  17. Tim 2015.02.14

    Liberty Dick, you mean to tell me that if I went in to observe the session and started spewing radical left wing stuff about right wing penis size or something, HP wouldn't be right there to toss me out? I would actually have to wait and get shot by a legislator?

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.14

    Grudz, the voters of District 2 should take the broom to Senator Greenfield.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.14

    Lynn, I concur with your assessment of Greenfield's tone. he sounds nervous, scared, paranoid. He made numerous remarks along the lines of "an increasingly volatile world" and being "always exposed to danger" and things happening "that have never happened before," without backing those comments up with any real examples that we are experiencing death and destruction at a higher rate now than at any time in the past.

    He also opened his remarks by saying he got the idea to write this bill when he heard someone say on the radio that the next big terrorist attack wouldn't happen in some big city but would happen in someplace like Pierre South Dakota. Ah, governance by talk-radio paranoia.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.14

    Wow, LibD. You're as bad as Greenfield with the cop-hating. Major Svendsen offered numerous valid security concerns, and you rebut with ad hominem attack that cops are lazy and ineffective.

    Did you catch Major Svendsen's statement in testimony on the subsequent sergeant-at-arms bill that the HP also has plainclothes officers romaing the Capitol? Just how many guns do you think we need floating around the Capitol?

  21. Tim 2015.02.14

    Cory, I would suggest that paranoia of some kind or another has been driving the SD legislature for quite a few years now. It does seem to change from year to year, except guns, they are always in the mix.

  22. Liberty Dick 2015.02.14

    I always think its funny when I get painted a "cop hater" even though I was one for roughly 3 years, still friends with many, and respect them. I always bring the tactical common sense to an argument that may make some uncomfortable but the reality is cops can't be everywhere all the time to keep everyone safe.

  23. larry kurtz 2015.02.14

    The fact that these lawgivers are scared to death of each other brings great pleasure to this old hippie.

  24. Tim 2015.02.14

    LD, so your answer is to arm everybody? Let the shootout begin?

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.14

    Thank you for that professional background, LibD. It still doesn't change the effect of your comment, as you dismiss rational, professional concerns by branding the state HP lazy and ineffective. Tell us, from your professional background, LibD, what did Major Svendsen get wrong in his testimony?

  26. larry kurtz 2015.02.14

    Dick is over at DWC contending that colored people shouldn't be allowed to have guns but white felons okay.

  27. mike from iowa 2015.02.14

    Why would a wingnut lege consult with law enforcement about law enforcement matters when they get their law enforcement marching orders from the NRA? Bad guys are easy to spot. They wear rags on their heads like ISIS does.

  28. Liberty Dick 2015.02.14

    Unless the officer is in the same room as any situation unfolds they will more often than not be there too late. Thinking they can be there to stop everything is irrational. Plain clothes officers are arguably more of a risk as well, they will add to the confusion and those dialing for help will most likely count them as gun men, and maybe even try to stop them. Uniformed or at the least visibly badged officers are the best alternative to an armed citizen or legislator.

  29. Rich 2015.02.14

    According to SDWC, Greenfield slipped on ice and fell, breaking his arm. Perhaps he should have used his gun to shoot the ice before it injured him. We need more legislation to protect us from dangerous, evil ice!

  30. Tim 2015.02.14

    LD, you assume everybody on the planet is a bad guy? I have never owned a gun in my life, I'm still here, never been shot. To be honest, the only time I ever even feel threatened is when I'm around people like you. Do you wear your sidearm out in public? Maybe you are the dude I seen in Sam's Club a couple months ago, Glock on his side, wearing camos, keeping his tackle box stuck in his face?

  31. Owen 2015.02.14

    Tim I bet that guy you saw at Sam's is the biggest pussy in the world. Bet he's never served and is a cop-wannabe.
    Just like Ted Nugent

  32. Tim 2015.02.14

    Lol, might be Owen, he and his goth girlfriend were in the checkout line in front of us, scared the shit out of my wife.

  33. Jim 2015.02.14

    I think for their safety, all legislators should wear bullet proof vests at all times.

  34. Owen 2015.02.14

    Jim if the legislators are that afraid why don't they quit and go home. Then let people, like Democrats, who have some courage go to Pierre and work on the REAL problems in our state

  35. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.14


    Let us suppose there is some kind of a shoot out at the capitol, you know when a tea party republican starts shooting at RINO for trying to be reasonable. Or maybe a Christian starts shooting in defense of God and the Bible.

    Now the HP is called, they have to buzz in from Ft. Pierre or elsewhere, when they arrive the shooting is still going on and Brock stands up and starts shooting who he thinks is the bad guy, he is the lone gunman standing.

    When the HP arrives and sees the carnage and an armed man, who do think they will shoot?

  36. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.14

    You've probably to it right about cop wannabes and being the biggest pussy's ever.
    I'm willing to bet that if there were some kind of gun incident in the capitol rotunda all these wannabe hero's would crap their pants. And the capitol would smell like the cesspool it is.

  37. grudznick 2015.02.14

    Everybody entering the building should wear shock collars and be monitored at all times by a hat camera with a grumpy fella having his finger on a button.

  38. Douglas Wiken 2015.02.14

    Legislators should wear bullet proof vests...AND tinfoil hats.

  39. larry kurtz 2015.02.14

    Kevlar vests while in the Statehouse, Doug: what a delicious compromise to no guns!

  40. mike from iowa 2015.02.14

    Legislators need to wear skirts since they sit down to pee. Only exception is when they go all small gubmint on women,minorities,children,the elderly etc. They be brave when faced with groups that can't defend themselves.

  41. Bill Dithmer 2015.02.14

    Larry Kurtz
    " South Dakota: Land of Infinite Volatility."

    I like that a lot. Kinda slides out of your mouth like a reverse noodle slurp.

    I guess nothing here that would surprise me. I'd sure would a liked to have been a fly on the wall of the capital security room though.

    Looking at his picture, it looks like Senator Greenfield is useing to dark a color. Maybe it was left in to long and caused incontinent brain thoughts. I might have gone to far there. I apologies if I offended Cory.

    All this talk about kevlar vest and tin foil hats sounds alright to me, but just think about it, wouldnt that be a nutjobs biggest fantasy? The illusion of invincibility, and finally being recignized by the tinfoil hat for his, "or Bettys," superior intelligence.

    While I'm here let me pass on a diet tip. If you feel like you want to binge on some kind of food, just think about something you dont really want to know about. For me that has been the question of "where Betty O would hide a handgun on her person?" Unless for some reason I'm forced to lower my standards, I think I might drop a few lbs.

    Major Svendsen, thank you for your service. This is for you.

    The Blindman

  42. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.14

    Good video Blindman. Gracias.

  43. Mike Verchio 2015.02.15

    I want to thank you all for such a well thought out civil discussion .

  44. grudznick 2015.02.15

    Mr. Verchio, imagine all the individuals that are qualified citizens of this state serving with you in the legislatures. Concealed carry indeed.

  45. larry kurtz 2015.02.15

    Speaking of bugger crazy, Verchio weighs in.

  46. grudznick 2015.02.15

    And Newland called me disturbed.
    And then Newland called me, and I was disturbed.

  47. Disgusted Dakotan 2015.02.15

    @Rep Verchio Why do the conservative activists in your area call you the "Hill City" Rattler?

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