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Back to Archives | Back to February 2008 Contents 

The Demands and Capacities of Protecting and Policing the Homeland

By the IACP State and Provincial Police Division Homeland Security Committee and Colonel Rick Fuentes, General Chair, and Superintendent, New Jersey State Police, West Trenton, New Jersey

ince the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the North American law enforcement community has seen extraordinary change. New homeland security practices, unprecedented partnerships, and the need for a more proactive posture in the protection of the United States and Canada compelled leaders in state and provincial law enforcement agencies to examine more closely the challenges their organizations faced as a community and how they were positioned to meet these demands.

S&P Report
In 2005, the IACP State and Provincial Police Division (S&P) began to develop a framework in which to conduct this examination. It established a Homeland Security Committee, comprising IACP S&P regional chairs and others, to carry out the work. State and provincial police commanders expressed a desire to identify the impact of homeland security responsibilities on their respective agencies and learn more about the tools and strategies employed by their peers. This knowledge would help form a basis for more clearly describing and defining the demands and capacities of state and provincial police agencies in protecting and policing their homeland and would help stimulate policy discussions at the highest federal levels.

The committee made several key findings. It found that a significant number of state and provincial law enforcement agencies have many special responsibilities, including government security, infrastructure protection, commercial vehicle enforcement, and intelligence fusion centers, and they are primary providers of a number of specialized police services, such as aviation, hazmat, and many others. The committee also found that beyond these specialized capabilities, state and provincial law enforcement agencies are deeply involved in a number of broader areas and are often the sole providers of the resources needed to mitigate homeland security threats. Additional case studies were then developed to represent models of success. Overall, the committee learned that state and provincial law enforcement agencies have a tremendous operational agility and that federal, state, provincial, and local governments rely heavily upon state and provincial police departments for an impressive array of services. In the face of many challenges, state and provincial law enforcement agencies are in a unique position to provide leadership and support on matters of emergency management and homeland security.

Emergency Management Assistance Compact

One type of interstate mutual aid agreement cited as an important facet of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) is the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).

In 1996 the U.S. Congress, through Public Law 104-321, recognized the EMAC. Today all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are all members of the EMAC, allowing states to provide mutual aid during emergencies. The EMAC played a vital role in the response and recovery efforts associated with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

To join the EMAC, member states must enact legislation adopting the language of the compact and have their respective governors sign off on that legislation. The compact contains 13 articles constituting an agreement between member states. Most states have adopted the compact as written but have made minor modifications. The articles cover the following topics: purposes and authorities, general implementation, party state responsibilities, limitations, licenses and permits, liability, supplementary agreements, compensation, reimbursement, evacuation, implementation, validity, and additional provisions. These articles delineate many important issues when member states enter into agreements for assistance under the EMAC and allow protection and reimbursement for those who deploy.

EMAC response to Katrina saw 1,839 requests for assistance to the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, with 61,631 personnel deployed. The operation cost approximately $770.1 million. EMAC response to Rita had 237 requests for assistance to the states of Louisiana and Texas, with 4,412 personnel deployed at a cost of approximately $57.8 million.

State and provincial law enforcement agencies made up roughly 22 percent of the EMAC law enforcement response for Katrina and Rita assistance. Assistance included patrol duties, search and rescue operations, closing out of pending emergency calls never answered at the height of the disaster, and various other general police duties. EMAC law enforcement deployments were orderly and self-sustaining. They avoided the complications that self-deployed agencies brought to the states of Louisiana and Mississippi. Agencies that self-deployed risked all penalties associated with deploying to a hazardous environment with none of the protection provided under the EMAC accord.

Survey Administration and Methodology

The project used a survey instrument to collect relevant facts about homeland security missions as exercised, implemented, and carried out by state and provincial law enforcement agency personnel. The survey instrument reflected the five phases (or the life cycle) of emergency management: prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. These five phases were deemed critical and are viewed as an overarching theme in capturing the overall role state and provincial law enforcement agencies play in homeland security missions.1

Troopers with the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) developed survey questions in 12 topic areas and posed those questions to the S&P membership. The rationale behind this peer-to-peer questioning (that is, troopers asking other troopers to provide information) was to take advantage of the unique knowledge and understanding that troopers have of the overall common role, function, and culture across jurisdictions. Specifically, it was believed that peer-to-peer questioning by subject matter experts would minimize ambiguity and reduce the chance of misinterpretation of questions or responses. In other words, the survey would ask only relevant questions that troopers believed would yield noteworthy responses. Information would be captured, recorded, and analyzed, with overall findings coordinated by the Internal Working Group (IWG). External Working Group (EWG) members would then review the findings and present them to the IACP Executive Committee for dissemination and to stimulate dialogue among homeland security stakeholders.

Survey Sample and Process

The S&P Homeland Security Committee developed a Web application to make the questionnaire available to the S&P membership through a secure Web portal. The committee asked commanding officers from 49 state police and highway patrol agencies in the United States and two law enforcement agencies in Canada to participate.2 Access to this secure site and authentication to use it were granted to member agency commanders or their designees only. IWG members maintained the database and culled responses. The IWG Analytical Team examined and compiled data while noting the limitations of these data, particularly of open-ended questions that are difficult to quantify.

Additional IWG subcommittees were formed and organized in a manner reflective of field expertise and knowledge in the following areas, which mirror the survey’s 12 categories:

  • Aviation services

  • Critical infrastructure

  • Communications

  • Counterterrorism (prevention and intelligence)

  • Commercial vehicles

  • Emergency management

  • Hazard mitigation strategies

  • Homeland security (prevention)

  • Marine services

  • Recovery

  • Government security (prevention)

  • Specialized services: response and deployment

IWG subcommittee members were to make observations, identify trends, and supply background information to place findings into context. Analysts then provided a copy of their analysis to the individuals responsible for writing the report.

What Other Surveys Found

In 2004 the Council of State Governments (CSG) and Eastern Kentucky University began to survey state and local law enforcement agencies from the 50 states, perform case studies, and consult with public officials, seeking responses on a variety of topics concerning the effects of September 11. They found that state and provincial law enforcement agencies had become more involved in the entire intelligence process, from collection to analysis to information sharing, especially as it applied to counterterrorism. The study, published in 2005, reported that local law enforcement agencies also called upon the services of their state law enforcement counterparts more often for operational support, training, technical assistance, and forensic evidence.1 State and provincial law enforcement agencies had more frequent contact with their federal law enforcement counterparts and with the private sector than in prior years. The report concluded that although the entire law enforcement community had been affected, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had had the greatest impact on state law enforcement agencies.

In another survey of state and local law enforcement agencies across the United States, conducted by the RAND Corporation, researchers found that state law enforcement agencies and larger local departments were more proactively engaged in terrorism preparedness, equipment acquisition, and training than their smaller local counterparts.2 Furthermore, they were responsible for policing a larger region, developing contingency plans, and conducting threat assessments, therefore requiring additional human resources. Larger state and county agencies have expanded the focus of their intelligence functions while still recognizing the need for increased and more reliable intelligence on terrorist threats and capabilities. They have also considered the most likely terrorist threats to be chemical or biological attacks or conventional explosives.

1Council of State Governments and Eastern Kentucky University, The Impact of Terrorism on State Law Enforcement: Adjusting to New Roles and Changing Conditions, for the Council of State Governments and Eastern Kentucky University, by Chad Foster and Gary Cordner, April 2005, (accessed January 2, 2008).
2Lois M. Davis et al., When Terrorism Hits Home: How Prepared Are State and Local Law Enforcement? (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Corporation, 2004), (accessed January 2, 2008).

Response Rate

The Web portal software application enabled the survey to be segmented into 12 separate topic areas that could be completed independently by the responding agency. The response rate for the 12 sections of the survey differed, as some respondents did not complete all sections. The highest response rates for any particular section, 80 percent, were in the areas of aviation services and homeland security. For the purposes of this article, any finding reported as a percentile will be understood to represent the response rate for that individual category and question.

Homeland Security Strategy

Reducing vulnerability to a terrorist attack requires the development of a comprehensive homeland security strategy. This strategy outlines ways for government to work with the private sector to identify and protect critical infrastructure and key assets, detect and deter terrorist threats, and augment defenses. In the United States, state law enforcement agencies also participate in the development of state homeland security funding strategies, serving as state administrative agencies for the distribution of U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funds in several states. The purpose of a homeland security funding strategy is to specify how the allocation of available federal and state domestic security preparedness (or homeland security) funding from all sources will support a comprehensive statewide program of domestic preparedness. A homeland security funding plan is a key component of a state’s domestic security preparedness strategy, identifying funding focus areas and detailing statewide critical activities necessary to support them.

Fusion Centers

State and provincial law enforcement agencies have established networks with other agencies to facilitate information sharing and often have representation on joint terrorism task forces or in fusion centers. The National Criminal Intelligence Resource Center reports that 17 state and provincial law enforcement agencies have established fusion centers as a component of, or in conjunction with, their agencies, and two others had fusion centers under development as of March 2006.3

Nearly half of all state and provincial law enforcement agencies have an office dedicated exclusively to counterterrorism intelligence and investigations, and 22 of 25 agencies responding to the intelligence portion of the survey reported that they have intelligence units dedicated to counterterrorism that use an all-risk, all-crimes approach. These agencies apply strategies directed toward criminal networks to enhance their agency’s operational readiness for terrorism.

Daily Involvement

As state and local law enforcement officers are involved daily in combating crime and interacting with the community, they are in an optimum position to identify, apprehend, and investigate terrorists. Typical daily state and provincial police activities involve commercial vehicles, maritime security, aviation services, government building security, and dignitary protection.

Commercial Vehicles: The 9.5 million commercial vehicles registered in North America today can, depending on their cargo and a host of other variables, present a significant hazard to the motoring public and to a state’s citizenry at large. Commercial vehicle operators and their trucks and cargo are highly regulated and therefore subject to roadside inspections (figure 1). In an all-hazards, all-crimes, all-threats era, these vehicles need to be not only inspected for regulatory compliance but also monitored for their susceptibility to becoming instruments of crime or terrorism. In a post–9/11 environment, complacency in this area of enforcement could have grave consequences.

Research gathered from the S&P survey established the connection between commercial vehicle inspection units and homeland security functions. A majority of state and provincial law enforcement agencies responding to the survey reported having inspection units and participating in training related to homeland security, establishing a connection between commercial vehicle inspection units and homeland security functions.

Guided in the United States by the federal motor carrier regulations and hazardous material regulations of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), the primary role of a state and provincial law enforcement truck inspection unit is to ensure that commercial vehicles not only are mechanically sound, or road ready, but also comply with the rules and regulations regarding the transportation of goods, hazardous materials, and passengers. Safety inspection units also enforce state and provincial weight and dimensional requirements and strive to increase travel safety along highways and reduce commercial vehicle accidents through high-visibility saturation patrols and crash analyses. Thirty-five state and provincial law enforcement respondents indicated that they had a truck safety inspection unit within their agency.

Because those engaged in criminal and terrorist activity need to transport their assets and weapons into strategic locations using a commercial motor vehicle, proactive state and provincial law enforcement officers have the best chance of identifying and disrupting their operations. While in transit, when these criminals and terrorists are most vulnerable, they often exhibit unique indicators and patterns of behavior that can alert attentive commercial vehicle officers to their illicit purposes. To the trained state and provincial law enforcement officer, these indicators and patterns of behavior are distinct and discernible.

Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents stated that their commercial vehicle inspection units had a specific connection to homeland security functions. It is also important to note that 44 percent of these units have participated in training directly connected to homeland security patrols, with some providing training to other agencies in a wide range of training topics, including detection of weapons of mass destruction, hazmat awareness, and counterterrorism. An emphasis on awareness and preparedness could be seen across training topics.

Marine Services: State and provincial marine enforcement agencies indicated that they have critical infrastructures in their state accessible by water, including liquid natural gas facilities, nuclear plants, dams, and container terminals. The need for marine-based critical infrastructure patrols was viewed as crucial. State and provincial law enforcement agencies employ marine services to address these vulnerabilities. In addition to previous duties, marine patrols were assigned to service areas deemed to be critical infrastructures, such as waterways, ports, and the security zones created in an effort to bolster and maintain security, often patrolling 24 hours a day. By leveraging law enforcement marine resources, the enforcement agency becomes a force multiplier for the Coast Guard.

Aviation Services: Traditionally, state and provincial law enforcement agencies aviation services have engaged in surveillance, mission-oriented aerial photography, and search and rescue. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, increased security surrounding aircraft and airports was critical, and it became immediately apparent that state and provincial law enforcement aviation services would have a vital role in implementing new security measures. In support of this increased vigilance, vulnerable areas of concern were identified and documented, with new aviation patrol procedures and missions established and initiated. Many of these, such as patrols of critical infrastructure, are conducted in support of national homeland security goals.

Specialized Services: Response and Deployment

Michigan State Police USAR
Specialized service units, such as urban search and rescue (USAR) teams (figure 2), bomb squads, canine units, and hazmat response groups, are assets that may be deployed during an emergency. These groups possess specific skills and specialized training that prepare them for dealing with a wide range of crises where lives and property are at stake. Seventy-three percent of state and provincial law enforcement bomb squads responding to the survey are operational on a full-time basis. All of the state and provincial law enforcement squads have access to explosive-disposal assets from other agencies. In addition, almost all of the responding state and provincial law enforcement agencies use canine assets and have a training certification component incorporated into their canine group. Finally, the majority of state and provincial law enforcement agencies responding have a hazmat response capability requiring hazmat technician–level responder training.

Urban Search and Rescue: In the United States, there are 28 federal USAR teams that work under the command and control of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). During a major event, these task forces can initiate response protocols, which require an executive authorization under the Stafford Act. In addition to the federal system, there are more than 25 states that have USAR assets that have formed an alliance called SUSAR, or State Urban Search and Rescue. The mission of this alliance is to create a forum where USAR administration, training, operational, and logistical issues can be discussed, thus creating standardization and uniformity. A team must include specific chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) response and self-sufficiency capabilities to meet Type 1 criteria under current NIMS guidance. With homeland security a primary focus, the level of USAR response capability that exists in each agency’s respective state and region bears consideration. Fifty-six percent of agencies responding to this survey have state USAR teams available. Thirty-two percent of them have 72-hour self-sufficiency and can sustain operations for up to two weeks with the assistance of local resources. Many have the ability to work in a CBRNE environment and also have swift water capability.

Geographical response limitations remain a noted consideration. While USAR teams can respond out of state through a mutual aid agreement or the EMAC, only a portion of these can provide operations more than 500 miles from their states.

Bomb Squads: Bomb squads employ increasingly sophisticated technologies and techniques to ensure the public safety while conducting inherently dangerous work. Their personnel are called upon to provide assistance with explosive detection and removal, blast investigations, training, and expert testimonial evidence in legal proceedings. They are also called upon to assist other agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and the U.S. Secret Service in the protection of officials.

Bomb squads existed in 63 percent of responding agencies. Furthermore, 73 percent employed a bomb squad on a full-time basis. Since the scope of an explosive threat may be greater than the capabilities of responding agencies, explosive-disposal assets may need to be shared by other agencies. All survey respondents reported that they have access to explosive-disposal assets from other agencies.

Vermont State Police bomb dog
Canine Assets: Canine assets are used for police patrol, searches, detection, and enforcement. They often assist in searches of property and vehicles to develop probable cause or evidence of a crime, pursuit of suspects, searches for missing persons or bodies, and in the detection of narcotics or explosive devices (figure 3). Canines work closely with their handlers, developing skills such as detection, tracking, chasing, and apprehending. They can be trained to detect specific odors, including narcotics, money, explosives, human scent, or other indication of a crime, such as gunpowder. Canines can search for or track a given scent and lead law enforcement to their desired target.

Trained dogs have a long history of law enforcement and military use. Because of their exceptional capabilities, they continue to be used in various aspects of law enforcement activity. Ninety-one percent of respondents use canine assets for explosives, narcotics, and patrol capabilities. In addition, 94 percent of responding agencies revealed that they have a training and certification component assigned to their canine group. Training components in canine units are essential to the functionality and quality control of these programs. In addition, canines that train on a regular basis in their specialty are often found to be more effective in the performance of their duties. Furthermore, handlers are more confident in their canine’s ability when they are able to train more frequently.

Hazmat Response: There are known and well-studied risks associated with many activities in commerce and industry. Innumerable variables amplify these risks, any of which can lead to a hazardous incident. Such incidents can result in the release of hazardous material that can escape into the atmosphere in solid, liquid, or gas form. The immediate and long-term health, fire, and environmental hazards range from negligible to catastrophic and can be mitigated or exacerbated depending upon a host of variables.

State and provincial law enforcement agencies are more involved in hazmat response because of the potential for deliberate actions with destructive motives. Law enforcement officers are often the first responders with a primary responsibility for public safety at the scene of a hazmat incident. Given this responsibility, a minimum of awareness-level training is necessary for law enforcement officers to be effective first responders.

First responders are a critical aspect of any agency’s hazmat response capability. These individuals come from several disciplines, such as state and local police, fire departments, county sheriff’s offices, and emergency medical systems. Various levels of training are offered depending on an individual’s task and mission.

Standards and guidelines outlined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Fire Protection Association explain the competencies required for each level. The five levels of training as promulgated under the U.S. CFR are awareness, operations, technician, specialist, and on-scene incident commander.

It should be noted that the on-scene incident commander level is not equivalent to National Incident Command System (ICS) certification. It is also important to note that training at these levels does not, in fact, result in a certification. The U.S. CFR places the burden of certification on the employer, not the employee. A training program is certified when it meets the standards of CFR 1910.120; completing a course of instruction in a certified program signifies that a student has demonstrated specific competencies from the training criteria. The employer then makes a decision to accept this training and so designates the employee as certified.

First responders at the awareness level are trained to detect the presence of hazardous materials at a scene. They notify the appropriate personnel of the incident and of conditions at the scene, protect themselves from exposure to hazardous materials, and work to secure the scene to prevent others from being harmed. Responders at the operational level are trained to take actions to contain certain types of releases. They attempt to prevent the spread of the hazardous materials until hazmat technicians arrive.

Technicians are trained to control a scene using special protective clothing and equipment. Specialists may have expertise germane to the incident, such as knowledge of chemistry or biology, and on-scene incident commanders are trained to view the entirety of the incident through a hazmat lens.

Although 20 out of 23 state and provincial law enforcement agencies responding to this portion of the survey indicated that their hazmat response personnel are trained to the hazmat technician level, a significant number of road-duty troopers are also trained to the awareness level. While training has traditionally been the role of the emergency services community, 17 out of 20 agencies responding indicated that they provide a training component in their hazmat response capability. This enables them to help train first responders and civilian groups to the hazmat awareness and operational levels.

Another aspect of training that complements the hazmat curriculum is CBRNE. Sometimes known as weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), CBRNE gives emergency personnel valuable knowledge to inform their responses in an all-threats environment. In New Jersey, for example, a 2004 attorney general mandate requires all law enforcement officers to obtain minimum training in ICS-100, hazmat awareness, CBRNE awareness, and counterterrorism awareness.

An additional concern for those responding to a hazmat incident is personal protection from exposure to dangerous substances. Although it is the responsibility of first responders to secure the scene and protect others from exposure, they must also ensure that they protect themselves, and varying levels of protective clothing are available for this purpose, each level suited to a particular task and mission.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) has been designed to afford protection against specific hazards in specific conditions. Proper selection of PPE is critical not only to ensure the appropriate level of protection for the hazard faced but also because of the potential effects that some PPE can have on the wearer under certain conditions, such as heat stress. It becomes important to the safety and health of personnel that all such factors, including training, are carefully weighed in the selection of PPE. Seventy-eight percent of state and provincial law enforcement agencies responding to this portion of the survey reported maintaining Level-A PPE, which includes a fully encapsulated suit with flash protection and a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).

Nebraska State Police Team
SWAT and Tactical Response Teams: Since the inception of police special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams, the demands on these units have grown exponentially. Criminal elements, specifically terrorists, have become highly sophisticated, with technology providing many tools to support terrorist networks. This reality has forced the state and provincial law enforcement tactical community to become more specialized and use a proactive approach to combat terrorism.

The DHS developed the National Response Plan to protect critical infrastructure and citizens throughout the country. Facilities such as power and chemical plants, ports, mass transit hubs, educational institutions, and sports venues are but a few of the areas that need to be protected. To accomplish this goal, state and provincial law enforcement tactical teams employ specialized equipment, training, and staffing (figure 4). Response to a CBRNE environment in which a terrorist has attempted to disrupt operations at a chemical plant is just one example of the many operations for which tactical teams must train. State and provincial law enforcement tactical teams have become increasingly aware of the dangers surrounding their work. They have developed working relationships with public and privately owned facilities as a means to protect the public and have turned to a risk management approach to deal with threats and vulnerabilities. Because the federal government cannot monitor every critical site, authorities rely on state and provincial law enforcement agencies to protect these facilities.

State and provincial law enforcement agencies often have a solid knowledge of the environment, people, and infrastructure with which they work. A close working relationship with the community and awareness of hazards give any tactical team an advantage. Tactical teams have had to become more resourceful in acquiring the equipment and training needed to combat terrorism.

Specialized units such as bomb squads, hazmat teams, canines, and SWAT teams have realized the importance of working together. The National Incident Management System brings these specialized disciplines together during training and real-world events. FEMA guidelines include a model for tactical teams.4 These guidelines put teams into three groups, with standardization a key element. The capabilities of one tactical team compared with another can vary greatly, so knowing the classification of nearby teams can help identify the appropriate unit for a particular job. Teams must possess the proper equipment and training to qualify for each tier.

State and provincial law enforcement tactical teams can respond to either a multitude of events or one large-scale event more rapidly than can the federal government because of their positioning in their states and provinces. With the proper personnel, equipment, and training, state and provincial law enforcement tactical teams are prepared for a broad range of operations, including underwater recoveries, high-risk raids, and hostage rescues


The DHS has established communication interoperability as a national priority, and many state and provincial law enforcement agencies have aligned their operational priorities to meet this imperative. The report of the 9/11 Commission emphasized the need for effective communications for all first responders, regardless of agency and geographical or political jurisdictions.5 More recently, the relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina were significantly hampered by degraded, congested, and incompatible communications systems and radios used by responders. Effective communications among public safety personnel, first responders, private sector personnel, and the community can save lives during a disaster, whether man-made or natural.

Interoperability can be defined as essential communication links within or between public safety and public service communication systems that permit units from two or more agencies to communicate with one another to exchange information according to a prescribed method to achieve predictable results. This may include communications between governmental and nongovernmental public safety and public service providers. In the context of this report, interoperability is the ability for public safety agencies—police, fire, emergency medical, and various other responders—to talk with one another via voice or data on demand and in real time.

Although state and provincial law enforcement agencies have used radio communication systems for many decades, most of these systems are limited in reach or geographical coverage and have enabled communication only within a particular group, agency, or jurisdiction. Public safety radio systems operate in bands of differing frequencies (low and high VHF, UHF, and 800 and even 900 megahertz [MHz]), and most radios can operate in only one frequency band. This is similar to being able to listen to either the AM or FM station only on a radio. It is also not unusual for one jurisdiction to have separate radio systems for its police, fire, and emergency medical services, and these systems might not be able to communicate with one another. The problem is compounded when numerous agencies from various jurisdictions respond to an incident.

From Hometown Security to Homeland Security: The IACP’s Principles for a Locally Designed and Nationally Coordinated Homeland Security Strategy

The IACP has released a report that identifies the following five principles as key to developing a successful U.S. homeland security strategy and protecting communities.

  • All terrorism is local. Local, not federal, authorities have primary responsibility for preventing, responding to, and recovering from terrorist attacks.

  • Prevention is paramount. For too long, federal strategies have minimized the importance of prevention, instead focusing on response and recovery.

  • Hometown security is homeland security. State and local law enforcement officers, because of their day-to-day work, are uniquely situated to identify, investigate, and apprehend suspected terrorists.

  • Homeland security strategies must be coordinated nationally, not federally. Federal agencies have too often limited state, tribal, and local public safety community input to participation in advisory panels and working groups that have little impact on policy development. A truly national effort would ensure that all levels of government—local, tribal, state, and federal—participate in policy design and development as full and equal partners.

  • Bottom-up engineering, public safety diversity, and noncompetitive collaboration are key. A truly successful national strategy must recognize, embrace, and value the vast diversity among state and local law enforcement and public safety agencies. A one-size-fits-all approach will fail to secure the homeland.

The IACP report asserts that although terrorist acts have national and even international repercussions, these crimes are inherently local and require a swift response from state and local law enforcement agencies. Any national homeland security strategy must be designed around a broad-based, locally designed, and nationally coordinated framework that allows public safety agencies to adapt to the unique needs of their communities.

Full report available at

The most effective way to provide interoperability is to develop, exercise, train with, and use an interoperability plan. Of state and provincial law enforcement agencies responding to this survey, 74 percent advised that they have a communications interoperability plan in place, 64 percent stated that their radio communications are part of a larger system, and 77 percent indicated that they use a statewide radio system for emergency management communications.

Agencies can achieve interoperability at local, regional, or statewide levels by taking the following steps:

  • Exchanging radios
  • Distributing radios from caches

  • Establishing unified command posts

  • Using common or shared radio channels or talk groups

  • Using local, regional, and national interoperability frequencies in the various bands

  • Patching these interoperability frequencies together locally with digital interconnecting switches, dispatch center console patches, and digital network gateways

Local or regional interoperability networks can be patched to one another or to statewide networks to increase the coverage areas. Connecting data systems is, in many cases, as important as voice systems and will provide for the exchange of information and video during critical incidents. Affiliating with a larger radio system helps smaller agencies by providing more technologically advanced communications capabilities for less expense, as the agency is not trying to fund an entire system from the ground up. Over two-thirds of these agencies have 24-hour command centers to facilitate command decisions regarding all serious or unusual occurrences of a consequential nature to the state.

During a crisis, the telephone systems frequently become inundated with traffic, a development that impedes public safety communications through the public switched network. Employing high-frequency (HF) radio systems in the 3- to 30-MHz spectrum provides long-haul radio capability for regional, national, or international communications. Some of the most commonly used HF systems are the FEMA National Radio System (FNARS), the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), and Shared Resources (SHARES). A popular adjunct to telephone communications is the use of satellite-based telephones. Satellite telephones are useful during a catastrophic failure of the public switched telephone network. A satellite system may, under certain circumstances, be the only form of long-range communications available.

During the early stages of an emergent event, rapid response teams can quickly establish communications at command posts in the field. This link improves information flow to command staff and support of first responders. Seventy-seven percent of responding state and provincial law enforcement agencies have implemented rapid response teams to quickly establish communications at command posts when needed.

Public notification systems exist to alert the general public if an emergency event such as an act of terrorism has occurred. One type of public emergency notification system is the Community Alert and Notification System (CANS), which notifies the public by telephone regarding an emergency. Another modality is a broadcast communications service such as the Emergency Alert System (EAS), which notifies the public of an emergency through a television or radio broadcast. Community notification systems and EAS each have their relative merits. All public warning systems, including sirens, work in concert with each other.

Crowd Control: Pennsylvania State Police
The ability to communicate efficiently and effectively during an emergent event (figure 5) is of paramount importance. Command, control, and organization of personnel and resources can only be achieved if adequate communication is established. Communication interoperability, 24-hour command centers, rapid response teams, and public notification systems are all measures that can be employed to facilitate systematic communication.


This project began with a self-examination to identify the demands that state and provincial law enforcement agencies faced as a community and how they might be positioned to meet those demands. State and provincial law enforcement leaders hoped to cultivate a body of knowledge that would serve as a primer for awareness of the capacities of state and provincial police agencies as well as a conceptual view of the officers that serve these organizations. Quantitative and qualitative research, coupled with interviews and case studies, resulted in a report that met these goals.

Beyond a high level of capability and readiness, the state and provincial law enforcement community has developed an acute situational awareness of the continually evolving emphasis on homeland security, as well as the critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills required to meet these common challenges. By embracing a philosophy of collaboration, state and provincial law enforcement agencies are able to stay abreast of paradigm shifts in law enforcement, emergency management, intelligence, and information sharing, as well as a host of other technical areas, and adjust their operational priorities accordingly. Of particular importance to many state and provincial law enforcement agencies is having increased involvement in emergency management decision making and advancing information technology. In many cases, state and provincial law enforcement agencies serve as the nexus between these areas of expertise, aligning the needs, resources, and efforts of federal, state, local, and tribal agencies. In this way, state and provincial law enforcement agencies play a critical role in strengthening the fabric of protection for citizens in and beyond their borders.

After careful review and consideration of the information gathered in the course of this project, the researchers identified several needs and recommendations. In the broadest terms, they include a continuation of partnership building and information sharing both upstream and downstream, exploring nontraditional sources of information. More specifically, they include the need for increased training and equipping of state and provincial law enforcement agencies for specialized capabilities, an increase in collaboration with nontraditional federal partners (such as agriculture and public health), and increased capacity to pass resources through to local governments. ■

The authors thank Shelly Lowe and Ray Bisogno of the New Jersey State Police, who capably navigated their teams through the analysis and writing portions of this project, respectively. They top the list of more than 60 individuals who proudly share in the outcome of this project.


1U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, “About FEMA: What We Do,” (accessed January 2, 2008).
2Of the 51 state and provincial police agencies surveyed, 49 are U.S. state police and highway patrol agencies, and 2 are Canadian provincial police. Only those members of the IACP S&P Division were asked to participate in the original survey. At this time, Hawaii is not a member of the IACP S&P Division.
3National Criminal Intelligence Resource Center, “State and Regional Intelligence Fusion Center Contact Information: A Summary of State or Regional Intelligence Fusion Centers,” March 8, 2006, (accessed January 2, 2008).
4Federal Emergency Management Agency, “About FEMA: What We Do.”
5National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (New York: W. W. Norton, 2004), (accessed January 2, 2008), 283.



From The Police Chief, vol. 75, no. 2, February 2008. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

The official publication of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
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