Mark A. Marshall, Chief of Police, Smithfield Police Department, Smithfield, Virginia
t is hard to imagine that it has been 10 years since the horrific events of 9/11. The images of the carnage in New York City; Arlington, Virginia; and Pennsylvania are indelibly etched into our consciousness. It was shocking that there were people who would coordinate and carry out a plan that was wrapped around a deranged ideology. Our mind-set and our missions changed that day.
At the same time we have also seen deadly attacks around the world . . . in places such as Madrid, London, India, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Russia, mostly directed or inspired by al Qaeda. Because of our collective efforts, al Qaeda has been significantly weakened. But it still remains a huge and constantly changing threat to our security around the world.
Unfortunately, we have also seen an evolving threat here in the United States involving homegrown terrorists inspired by al Qaeda and its convoluted philosophy. Individuals such as Awar Al-Awlaki and Omar Hammami, sadly, both American citizens in exile, and their use of the Internet to radicalize others are examples of the changing threat. The simple truth as expressed by the cartoon Pogo is this “we have seen the enemy and it is us.” The homegrown threat is real, and the tragic murders at Fort Hood by Nidal Hasan drive it home.
The number of credible plots by domestic terrorists that have been uncovered over the past 18 months clearly demonstrates the changing threat we face. It truly emphasizes the need for everyone to recognize this threat—not only first preventers and first responders at all levels, but also the private sector and citizens. We must remain vigilant at all levels. Hometown security is homeland security.
And even so, homeland security assistance grants from the federal government to state, local, and tribal law enforcement are being cut drastically. This is the time when we should fight for our efforts on the ground and make our voices heard. We have made much progress in the past decade, but we must not stop now. There is still much work to be done to engage fully all the partners we need.
Most of the successful ideas, strategies, and tactics that have helped drive down crime rates to historic lows and that have kept the United States safe since 9/11 have been developed at the local and state level. From CompStat to fusion centers to suspicious activity reporting (SAR), the genesis for these ideas all began within municipal and state police agencies.
Unfortunately, the very programs and policing philosophies that spearheaded this decline in crime are now under grave threat. The negative effect of reducing services to our communities cannot be overstated—the economic slowdown has forced state, local, and tribal governments to adopt massive cutbacks. In short, the fiscal situation faced by local and state governments is stifling innovation and putting our communities at risk.
And, while we have made significant and meaningful progress, we still have not fully engaged the vast capabilities of the 18,000 agencies and 800,000 officers of the state, local, and tribal law enforcement community. It is essential that all law enforcement officers realize and understand that no matter where they serve—urban police department or rural sheriff’s agency—they play a critical role in our nation’s homeland security efforts. They are the ones who will provide the information to a fusion center that, when appropriately analyzed, could lead to the interdiction of a plot and the prevention of a tragedy.
The IACP is leading the effort to accomplish this through the Nationwide SAR Initiative (NSI) with a training program we call SLT 101—a primer for police executives on information sharing including fusion centers and suspicious activity reporting, among others. We will be conducting 10 national training sessions geared towards mid-sized and smaller agencies.
Another initiative that the IACP has been fully involved in is the national data exchange or N-DEX. As you know, N-DEX is a nationally scaled information sharing system that is part of the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) systems. It is governed by representatives that make up the stakeholders, including IACP. It is offered without cost to United States law enforcement. N-DEX serves as a repository of incident and offense reports, probation and parole information, and correctional data.
What all of these efforts demonstrate is that only by fully embracing the need for information and intelligence sharing can we overcome the barriers that have hindered our past efforts and ensure that our agencies and our officers have the information they need to protect our citizens from harm. We must be involved in this essential collection. The risk of not sharing is far greater than any perceived risk about participation.
It is clear that we have made tremendous strides since that horrible Tuesday morning 10 years ago. Our communities are safer; our officers are better trained and better equipped. We, as a profession, have made substantial progress in ensuring that functions of intelligence and information sharing are woven into the daily fabric of state, local, and tribal law enforcement cagencies. But we must not rest. The threats we face are ever-evolving, and terrorist organizations are constantly searching for weaknesses to exploit and targets to attack.
The challenges we face are daunting, but they also highlight the enduring lesson of the 9/11 attacks. Working together we will prevail. This is the legacy that must continue. ■
Please cite as:
Mark A. Marshall, "9/11: 10 Years Later," President's Message, The Police Chief 78 (September 2011): 6.