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Law Enforcement’s Continuing Role in Homeland Security

By Michael Wagers, PhD, Director, Division of State and Provincial Police, and Staff Liaison to the Committee on Terrorism, IACP; James “Tim” Bryan, Program Manager, Information Sharing Initiatives, and Staff Liaison to the Homeland Security Committee, IACP; and Sarah R. Horn, Program Manager, Division of State and Provincial Police, IACP, and IACP/COPS Homeland Security and Community Policing Project

IIn a recent Gallup poll, less than one-half of one percent of respondents ranked terrorism as the most important issue facing the United States.1 Contrast this with a similar poll taken months after 9/11, when terrorism was ranked as one of the top issues facing the country.2 This data point should come as no surprise. It has been more than 11 years since we have suffered a major attack domestically, and we are facing other overriding problems now, such as the economy.

That terrorism does not preoccupy the thinking of most Americans should be seen as a victory over the radical Islamist Osama bin Laden and his followers. While we want citizens to be vigilant and to report suspicious activity to law enforcement, we do not want them to be preoccupied with concerns about terrorism. And, while we want them to be partners with law enforcement in the coproduction of safety, we do not want citizens in a free and democratic society to be overwhelmed by fear.

As we have done in previous homeland security editions of Police Chief magazine, we have assembled a series of articles detailing how law enforcement continues to work to keep the United States safe. In fact, this edition contains prime examples of why and, hopefully, how law enforcement will continue to ensure that the threat of terrorism is not the most pressing issue facing the United States in the mind of the public.

James Davis describes the role that his state’s fusion center played in preventing the 2009 terrorism plot masterminded by Najibullah Zazi. Davis holds a unique position to discuss how the Colorado Information and Analysis Center helped disrupt the only known al Qaeda directed plot since 9/11. Before being appointed to executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, Davis was the FBI special agent in charge who helped tracked down Zazi and his coconspirators. He gives a firsthand account of how the fusion center assisted the FBI in its counterterrorism (CT) mission, providing a rebuttal to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report, issued in September, that questioned the CT value of the National Network of Fusion Centers (NNFC).3

IACP members and staff have worked to strengthen the NNFC. The chairpersons of the Terrorism and Homeland Security committees have led the efforts of the Unified Message Task Team (UMTT). This group of state, local, and federal law enforcement officials have been working to create a cohesive approach to reporting and sharing suspicious activity and reducing the perceived conflict among agencies responsible for homeland security. This is not an easy task given that more than 17,000 agencies make up our system of law enforcement in the United States. The UMTT continues to meet, with support from Information Sharing Environment Program Manager Kshmendra Paul, to find ways to expand the network and its messaging.

The Bipartisan Policy Center issued a report in December 2012 regarding online radicalization. The report noted that “[f]uture terrorist attacks against the United States and its interests will continue to involve individuals who have been radicalized—at least in part—on the Internet.”4 This edition of Police Chief contains an article by Daniel Sutherland of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) who discusses a model for how government can work with communities to address the dangers presented by the Internet. The twist, however, is that the focus is not simply on preventing someone from becoming radicalized, the first step to becoming a terrorist. Instead, using the same community policing principles that we know work when applied to other problems, such as gang violence, Sutherland describes how a local law enforcement agency, federal government partners, and community leaders worked together to address this issue.

The IACP Committee on Terrorism (COT) produced a series of publications in 2012 to help law enforcement counter radicalization. These publications can be found on the IACP website.5 Furthermore, IACP staff is working with the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and other partners, such as the NCTC, to produce an online radicalization toolkit. Staff also are producing a series of case studies and a leading practices guide that demonstrate how local law enforcement are combating radicalization in their communities.6

This month’s Officer Safety Corner presents information on the growing domestic terrorism and officer safety threat presented by so-called sovereign citizens. As Thom Jackson of the Nevada Highway Patrol discusses, a growing number of people who adhere to the sovereign citizen ideology, which rejects the authority of the federal government and most law enforcement, are turning violent. Two deputies in Louisiana were shot and killed in August 2012, and two officers from West Memphis, Arkansas, were gunned down by a father and son team who adhered to this virulent ideology in 2010. Jackson describes what law enforcement should know to promote safety in encounters with sovereign citizens who might be prone to violence.

This issue has been discussed at many IACP committee, section, and division meetings. We held a conference call, in partnership with the FBI, in August 2012 to discuss the threat. More than 200 members from the IACP State Associations of Chiefs of Police and the IACP State and Provincial Police divisions and the Midsize Agencies Section joined the call, which was hosted by COT Chairperson Mark Giuliano. We partnered with the Department of Homeland Security in January to assist them in producing a webinar on this subject. And we know from our partners at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that this issue is not just a problem in the United States; Canada has a number of antigovernment groups with similar beliefs.7 Given the growing nature of
the threat, especially as it presents unique dangers to law enforcement officers, we will continue to focus on sovereign citizens and others with related views that threaten police.

Information sharing became a law enforcement mandate after 9/11. The mentality of the overwhelming majority of police leaders has become one of a willingness to share data. One issue preventing forward motion has been technology. Charlie Bush, who is retired from the Michigan State Police, provides an update on the rollout of the National Data Exchange, which aims to solve this problem; it is the nationally scaled system in the United States to share criminal justice information. Bush describes how the growth in the number of contributing agencies and searchable records is reaching a point where the system now is an invaluable tool for state, local, tribal, and federal law enforcement to fight crime and terrorism.8

A lot more great work is being done by law enforcement to prevent terrorism, such as the investigations conducted by the Joint Terrorism Task Forces. We have recognized some of these investigations through our IACP/Booz Allen Hamilton Terrorism Prevention Award.9 At the IACP, we will continue to do what we can to serve our members through our existing programming and coordinated threat calls, and we will continue to work with our federal partners on emerging and pressing issues such as cybersecurity and active shooters.10 ♦

1Gallup, “Most Important Problem,” September 2012, (accessed December 14, 2012).
2Karlyn Bowman and Andrew Rugg, “Americans and the Terrorism Threat 10 Years After 9/11,” The American, August 31, 2011, (accessed December 14, 2012).
3U.S. Senate, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, “Federal Support for and Involvement in State and Local Fusion Centers,” October 3, 2012, (accessed December 14, 2012). The IACP’s response to this report, called “Joint Statement,” can be found on the IACP’s YouTube channel, (accessed December 17, 2012).
4Countering Online Radicalization in America, by Peter Neumann for the Bipartisan Policy Center, National Security Program, Homeland Security Project, December 4, 2012, (accessed December 14, 2012).
5The International Association of Chiefs of Police, “Committee on Terrorism,” Counter-Radicalization Resources, September 2012, (accessed December 14, 2012).
6For more information on this initiative, please contact Sarah R. Horn, program manager, IACP/COPS Homeland Security and Community Policing Project at or 703-647-7215.
7Discussion at the IACP Committee on Terrorism midyear meeting. Berlin, Germany, May 21–25, 2012.
8For more information on this initiative, please contact James “Tim” Bryan, program manager, Information Sharing Initiatives and staff liaison to the Homeland Security Committee, at or 703-647-6812.
9The IACP and the Department of Homeland Security hosted a roundtable discussion regarding cybersecurity threats and the importance of federal, state, and local coordination on December 19, 2012, at the IACP headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.
10The 2012 IACP/Booz Allen Hamilton Committee on Terrorism Investigative Award was presented to DCIS, Southeast Field Office; the Durham, North Carolina, Police Department; FBI Raleigh Durham Joint Terrorism Task Force; the Raleigh, North Carolina, Police Department; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of North Carolina. The Innovative Leadership Award was presented to the Los Angeles, California, Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

Please cite as:

Michael Wagers, James “Tim” Bryan, and Sarah R. Horn, "Law Enforcement’s Continuing Role in Homeland Security," The Police Chief 80 (February 2013): 18–19.



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXX, no. 2, February 2013. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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