MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Given the recent acts of violence against public officials, the police chief of Collierville, Tenn., has offered this advice to the board of aldermen: Practice ducking.
Police chief Larry Goodwin, taking note of two recent attacks on public officials, told members of the Collierville Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Thursday that they need to practice diving under the dais or running for cover if they ever face someone threatening their lives.
He pointed to a school board meeting last month in Panama City, Fla., where board members stayed glued to their chairs for minutes while a gunman ranted and then took a point-blank shot at the school superintendent. The incident, which lasted more than 6 minutes, was captured on video.
The shooter "turned his back on the board when that woman hit him with a purse," Goodwin told board members. "He turned back around and they were all still sitting there."
The gunman fired several shots at the board before being winged by a security guard. The gunman's final shot was a suicide shot to his head.
"Usually you have a few seconds to decide what to do," Goodwin said. "There needs to be a plan of escape in place."
He also alluded to the deadly rampage Jan. Saturday in Tucson, Ariz., where a gunman shot a congresswoman in the head, killed a federal judge and five others and wounded 13 more before being subdued.
"No one expects it to happen," Goodwin said. "But you need to have a plan of action. People react in a manner that they've been trained to do."
He told board members that if someone approaches them in a threatening manner while they are out in the town talking to constituents to break contact immediately and call 911.
"Help will be coming, but you have to react as quickly as you can," he said.
When Town Hall was constructed, there was supposed to be a steel panel installed under the dais so board members could find safety, but it wasn't installed because of budget constraints, said Town Administrator James Lewellen.
Alderman Tom Allen said he wants the board to consider installing a small steel plate so the board has the option of diving to the floor.
"It can be 10 to 12 inches high," Allen said. "I can get down to 8 inches if I have to."