Preparation and knowledge that it could happen here are vital to protecting Suffolk theatergoers from a mass shooting like the one in Colorado last month, police said Tuesday.
"It's only a matter of time before someone attempts an attack in Suffolk," said Insp. Stuart Cameron, executive officer of the Suffolk's Office of Chief of Patrol. "It's inevitable that people say 'I didn't think it could happen here,' "
Safety was on the minds of movie theater and performing arts officials when they met for the first time with Cameron and other Suffolk police officials Tuesday at the county's police academy.
Most of the meeting was closed to the news media.
Cameron said afterward he urged performance venues to create a plan and make sure workers look out for suspicious behavior. Audience members should be aware of the nearest exit, he said, and must be on the lookout for suspicious behavior. Representatives of movie theaters declined to comment.
Although an attack is unlikely at the CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale, said marketing manager Terry Brennan, its been on her mind since the July 20th attack inside an Aurora, Colo., movie theater that killed 12 and wounded 58.
Brennan said she'd gone to see "The Dark Knight Rises" -- the movie that had just started when the Aurora gunman opened fire -- a few weeks after the rampage.
"When there was the scene with all the bullets," Brennan said, "we looked at each other and said, 'were you a little freaked out?' "
The police academy seminar was like several others in recent years, which included officials from schools, hospitals and corporations to prepare for mass shootings, Cameron said.
Suffolk police make a point of studying each shooting to be prepared. Shortly after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, Suffolk Police clarified procedures in mass shootings so that responding police officers have the authority to immediately stop the gunman instead of waiting for SWAT members. At Columbine, police initially set up a perimeter to contain the gunmen.
"If we take time to get in there, people are going to be dying," he said, noting that, on average, a person is shot every 15 seconds during a mass shooting.