Orange County Sheriff’s Office hosts national counter-terrorism conference

Law-enforcement leaders from across the country flocked to Orlando on Thursday for a three-day counter-terrorism conference nearly one year after the city was devastated by the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11: the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office hosted the conference at the Rosen Centre Hotel with the National Sheriffs’ Association, Major County Sheriffs of America and the Florida Sheriffs Association.

Gov. Rick Scott appeared before the crowd of law-enforcement officers to sign House Bill 457, which targets terrorism and terrorist activities.

The law strengthens Florida’s criminal penalties against terrorism.

“It’s going to ensure those [who aid or are terrorists] are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Scott said.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen said the bill gives state and local law enforcement some of the same authority that federal agents have.

Attendees learned from experts involved with terror cases in the U.S., such as an undersheriff who worked on the Fort Lauderdale airport attack and an FBI representative who investigated two former Iraqi terrorists found living in Bowling Green, Ky.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, FDLE Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks and FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ron Hopper also presented a “lessons learned” session about the June 12 attack at Pulse, which killed 49 and injured at least 68 more.

The conference focused on identifying potential terrorists, signs of attacks or a “radical mindset,” according to the Sheriff’s Office.

“The goal is to prevent an attack … and that’s based on the information we receive through numerous sources,” Demings said.

Swearingen said it’s important for local and state law-enforcement officers to learn about combating terrorism because “this task is…

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