By Michael Wagers, PhD, Director, Division of State and Provincial Police, IACP; Staff Liaison, IACP Committee on Terrorism and Homeland Security
t has been more than a decade since 9/11, the day when four coordinated suicide plane attacks left nearly 3,000 people dead, including more than 400 fire, police, and emergency medical services heroes. Thanks to the good work of law enforcement, numerous plots have been thwarted in the past 10 years. And, although there have been several successful acts of terrorism—such as Major Nadal Hassan’s murder of 13 service members at Fort Hood, Texas—the United States has not suffered another catastrophic attack on the scale of 9/11.
Most experts predicted that the United States would suffer another major blow. Credit for preventing this goes not only to our intelligence agencies and military operating overseas but also to our domestic counterterrorism approach. Two reasons why this approach has helped protect our homeland over the past 10 years have been the focus on prevention and the recognition of the importance of state, local, and tribal law enforcement.
State, local, and tribal police, working in partnership with federal law enforcement, are now considered integral players in terrorism prevention. This represents a shift in thinking, whereas prior to 9/11, the more than 18,000 state, local, and tribal police agencies across the country were seen as ancillary in the fight against terrorism. The importance of the officer and trooper on patrol or the investigator working a case is embodied, for example, in the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, which seeks to harness intelligence from the 800,000 law enforcement officers in the United States.
Actionable intelligence, developed often from information from the law enforcement community, is critical in keeping the homeland safe. As TSA Administrator John Pistole highlights in his column, his agency works closely with law enforcement and other partners to detect, deter, and disrupt plots before potential terrorists can get to the airport. He sees his agency moving more toward intelligence-driven practices, which increase the chances of preventing the next airborne act of terrorism.
New structures and processes have been put in place to support prevention efforts, aid in the development of intelligence, and assist law enforcement. The evolution and the maturation of fusion centers, for example, have led to vast improvements in information sharing. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called these centers “one of the brightest spots, biggest success stories” of the 9/11 reforms.1
This Homeland Security edition of Police Chief magazine contains several articles relating to the progress that law enforcement has made over the past 10 years and the way forward in continuing to protect the homeland as the nature and the shape of the terrorist threat changes.
We know that being able to share information, especially potential threat-related information, is critical to prevention efforts. Mark Giuliano, Executive Assistant Director of the National Security Branch at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), outlines in his article how the FBI continues to work closely with local, state, and federal law enforcement to make the processes for communicating and sharing information as easy and as efficient as possible. As Director Giuliano rightly notes in his article contained in this issue of Police Chief, “Different agencies, at all levels of government, may have various pieces of the puzzle that, when put together, illustrate a real threat that agencies may not have seen independently.”
Director Giuliano also discusses the Unified Message Task Team, an ad hoc committee comprising IACP members from the Committee on Terrorism, the Homeland Security Committee, the Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council, and other entities, who are working to further improve the process for how citizens and law enforcement officers report suspicious behavior. The task team met at IACP headquarters December 6–7, 2011. Several high-ranking government leaders presented at the meeting, and many participants commented that it was a “seminal” meeting that will strengthen cooperation among all levels of law enforcement.
Of course, no conversations can be held about law enforcement operations without regard to the economy. Dwindling resources and increasing demands make maintaining a prevention posture even more difficult. New Jersey State Police Captain Ray Guidetti points to ways fusion centers are helping local departments in this austere fiscal environment, such as by providing analytical services to departments that lack this critical capacity, accessing broader government services and data, and supporting an “all-crimes” approach. Captain Guidetti communicates in his article examples of how this process is working in New Jersey.
IACP staff members Tim Bryan and David Roberts discuss in their Technology Talk column this month the Law Enforcement National Data Exchange (N-DEx). They cite Texas and Kansas as two examples of states using this no-cost system to share information. N-DEx is an investigative tool for sharing incident, offense, and correctional data nationwide. Also, in support of strengthening state, local, and tribal interaction and connectivity with fusion centers and the information sharing environment, the IACP hosted 10 training sessions throughout the country in 2011, with 275 chiefs and command staff participants.
To prevent the next terror attack, understanding and responding accordingly to the evolving threat are key. Anna Gray-Henschel, PhD, director general of strategic integration and program Support at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police National Security Criminal Investigations, in her article discusses the process that leads individuals from radicalization to violence and puts forth important considerations for countering extremist behaviors. Dr. Gray-Henschel’s article is an outgrowth of the work of the IACP’s Committee on Terrorism.
The IACP, with funding from the Office of Community Policing Services (COPS), is working to help law enforcement counter violent extremism. Recognizing that there is a gap in our prevention efforts to interrupt the radicalization continuum—as Dr. Gray-Henschel points out—the IACP is working with the COPS Office to develop materials to inform members about leading countering violent extremism practices and to provide tools, especially related to Internet radicalization, to IACP members and the law enforcement community at large.
The IACP continues to promote the good work of its members. The Committee on Terrorism awarded the 2011 IACP/Booz Allen Hamilton Domestic Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Prevention of Terrorism to the Dallas Joint Terrorism Task Force; the Lubbock, Texas, Police Department; and the Texas Tech University Police Department. Through the combined efforts of these law enforcement agencies, a significant terror plot was disrupted when Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari was arrested in February 2011.2 Mr. Aldawsari had obtained two of the three chemicals needed to build a bomb and had tried to buy the third. His intended targets included the residence of former President George W. Bush.
Emergency response to manmade disasters, such as acts of terrorism, and natural disasters is a critical law enforcement function, and improvements are being made in this area as Barry Domingos points out in his article on resource typing. But the past 10 years have shown us that to protect the homeland from the terrorist threat, we must continue to focus on prevention efforts. This includes providing the appropriate grant funding dedicated to this purpose. And we must continue, above all, to recognize and support state, local, and tribal police, working in partnership with federal law enforcement as significant components of the U.S. domestic counterterrorism approach.3 ■
1Speech at the IACP Division of State and Provincial Police Annual Banquet, Chicago, Illinois, October 22, 2011.
2For more information about this award, including the 2012 application, please visit http://www.theiacp.org/About/Awards/IACPBoozAllenHamiltonTerrorismAward/tabid/721/Default.aspx (accessed January 9, 2012).
3The IACP passed in Chicago, Illinois, at IACP 2012 the resolution “Support of Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program as Standalone Program.” This resolution affirms the vital importance to the security of the United States to fully fund the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program as a standalone program. For a full list of passed resolutions, visit http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display&article_id=2562&issue_id=122011 (accessed January 9, 2012).
Please cite as:
By Michael Wagers, "Protecting the Homeland: Focusing on Prevention and State, Local, and Tribal Law Enforcement," The Police Chief 79 (February 2012): 20–21.