ince the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the entire law enforcement and emergency services sectors have had to review, and in some case redefine, their roles in their communities and with other area agencies. We have a heightened responsibility to be more aware and to make decisions based on that awareness and the requisite training.
Police officers all over the United States go about their daily routines in much the same way they did five years ago (allowing, of course, for the changes brought about by advances in technology). Police executives, managers, and supervisors continue to plan, organize, and direct their agencies using the proven principles and practices of modern policing. So what really has changed? Is it conceptual, or is there real, concrete change visible to the naked eye of the average citizen?
The answer is that every police department, regardless of size, has assimilated certain nuances of change in a number of areas of daily activity from planning to operations. There are six distinct responsibilities that should be considered when reviewing what has changed for police agencies and the cops on the beat.
- Municipal infrastructure
- Business, schools, manufacturing
- Patrol strategies
- Interoperability and sharing
- Information overload
In each category, changes have been required for the management and administration of law enforcement agencies, as well as operating procedures and public policies in carrying out the law enforcement and community policing missions in the local communities. Although some changes are required due to the heightened alert status from homeland security officials and other federal mandates, many are simply practical activities derived from the inherent responsibility as protectors of communities. Still others are driven by the changing missions of federal agencies like the FBI and the Secret Service, which require added responsibility for local law enforcement in counterfeit investigations, bank robberies, and other crimes. So let's examine these responsibilities and determine just how the everyday activities have changed on the beat and in the offices of local law enforcement agencies.
Soon after the September 11 attacks, all counties, townships, and municipalities were required to complete a detailed assessment of their critical infrastructure. All utilities, power plants, bridges, water supplies, and so on are considered not only critical to the function of local government but also critical assets to entire areas serviced by them. Once the assessments were complete it became incumbent upon law enforcement to meld the safety and security of identified infrastructure into their operational plans. Myriad security techniques were employed, including enhanced video surveillance and directed patrols (specific duties assigned to regular patrol). The officer on the beat has to remain cognizant of specific locations and provide additional security along with regular patrol duties. No longer can the police officer assume the worker in the gas and electric company truck is working on reported problems. Patrol officers must remain familiar with utilities equipment and personnel and take the time to stop and talk with these responders to ensure that they are, in fact, utilities employees completing company business.
Schools, Businesses, and Manufacturing
Patrol officers are very familiar with schools located on their beat or in their city. They typically know what businesses operate in their assigned areas and possess at least a modicum of information about manufacturing plants nearby. Since 2001 it has been recognized that just having a basic working knowledge of these is simply not good enough. More emphasis has been placed on knowing what is being manufactured in these plants and what materials are shipped in and out to facilitate these products. Police officers must understand what impact these might have on the greater community if, for instance, an explosion occurred or a train carrying these products derailed.
In addition, officers must be familiar with the physical plants and understand their inherent vulnerabilities to criminals and terrorists. Police agencies have to become closer to the business community and know who owns and operates each location. It is necessary to be more cognizant of the vulnerabilities of the schools and ensure solid lockdown procedures are in place. It cannot be taken for granted that safety issues are fully addressed by the schools. Rather, the local police department needs to work closely with school security representatives and ensure that policies and procedures are in place. And, if not, help them develop viable safety procedures. Shopping malls also present unique considerations for law enforcement and emergency service providers. Most shopping malls have private security on location. The police department needs to establish a liaison with mall security to ensure that they too have considered the post-September 11 threat in their policies and training.
The luxury of patrolling one's beat in a military manner, observing all and responding, reporting, and acting as needed is an outdated and simplistic view of police patrol. Community-orient-ed policing added a new dimension to beat patrol. Interaction with the community and residents in a problem-solving mode was a step up the ladder in protecting the communities.
Post-September 11 policing requires that local police continue to climb to ensure that communities are safe from not only criminals but also terrorists. Police agencies have to continue to mitigate the disruption of the criminal element while remaining aware of the more sophisticated threats posed to communities in post-September 11 America.
This is not about paranoia. It is about due diligence to the entire range of police services the new patrol officers must provide in their assigned areas. They can no longer just cross a bridge in their community to get to the other side and continue patrol. They must now ensure the safety of that bridge as critical infrastructure to the entire area. Schools, stadiums, shopping centers, and manufacturing plants must be viewed as targets for terrorism, not just burglary. Patrol officers now consider more aspects of what facilities are located on their beat and are more diligent in how they inspect these assets.
Training for Police, Fire, and Emergency Medical Services
Police and fire agencies have long recognized the importance of training and education in providing quality services to communities. Both professions have always searched for management and supervisory courses to make their agencies more effective and investigative and ser-vice-oriented training and technological advances to stay on the cutting edge of the profession. The prospect of terrorism in the towns and townships has added a new dimension to the training considerations. A number of training opportunities have been offered from federal resources. In Anniston, Alabama, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center for Domestic Preparedness offers all-expens-es-paid training for first responders in weapons of mass destruction, critical incident response, incident command, hazardous materials, and managing civil actions in threat incidents. In addition, training in bomb response, radiological and nuclear awareness, chemical and biological integrated response is offered in Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas, fully sponsored with federal dollars, including travel to and from these sites.
Consistent in-service training activities and roll-call efforts, as well as directed patrols, assist in the development and accomplishment of local strategies for homeland security. Patrol officers continue to make their rounds in neighborhoods, schools, and business districts, but they have become more aware of public infrastructure and the possible threat from any terrorist activity. Even the movement of vehicles through the jurisdiction creates a thought process in the beat officer about what those vehicles are carrying and the threat they could pose to the communities. Officers have become more aware of utilities employees and their trucks and equipment. It has always been the practice of good beat officers to know their patrol areas and to know when something is out of place. Now, they have had to redefine "out of place" to ensure that the elements of homeland security are a part of that daily assessment.
Sharing and Cooperation
Since the September 11 attacks, there has been an unprecedented effort to share information among local, county, state, and federal agencies for the sake of homeland security. Only through a unified effort can a viable defense be mounted against an enemy that uses terror as its primary weapon and fear as the byproduct.
The Ohio Office of Criminal Justice (Ohio Homeland Security) has created a weekly report, with sometimes daily updates concerning happenings around the country of which police officers should be aware.
The Terrorism Early Warning Group (TEWG) is a regional effort with federal support and local participation. The TEWG provides intelligence reports and investigative activity based on requests from local agencies. Detailed information on a suspect can be obtained rather quickly when a situation occurs in a local community. National resources are made available through the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to gather necessary information on a suspicious person in suspicious circumstances.
A Joint Terrorism Task Force has been organized for the purpose of combining the efforts of local, state, and federal agencies in documenting, investigating, and sharing information pertinent to the homeland security efforts of all. The FBI, the Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs, the Ohio State Patrol, and county and local agencies are represented in this group and have been cooperating in a way that was previously unheard of to pool the resources of all in the joint effort of homeland security.
County and local police departments have rewritten and strengthened their mutual aid agreements and are more aware of agency assets that can be applied to homeland security efforts. Local readiness tabletop exercises have been replaced with area and regional exercises and mock disaster drills. Area-wide communications have been enhanced with 800-megahertz systems and frequency sharing. Even police and fire are sharing information and communication channels. Emergency services workers are more connected now than ever before. These efforts are strengthening homeland security across the United States.
A new and strange twist to this cooperation and sharing has created significant headaches for local agencies. Information overload on homeland security issues has created a new job description in smaller police agencies that have no legal section or research and planning section. Who is responsible for reading the deluge of information flowing from federal, state, and county sources and determining what is pertinent and should be disseminated down the chain of command to the patrol and investigative supervisors and from them to the beat officer? Some information is time-sensitive, while other information is national and not of any regional value. It has become a question of not only what to act upon but also how to make time to read through the information and determine what course of action to take.
The Internet is a valuable tool, but it can be a huge deterrent to effective information exchange. All of a sudden everybody is an expert on homeland security. Hot news flashes from across the country make their way into local computer databases and into police squad rooms. The police can spend as much time chasing rumors and urban myths as they do studying quality research that has some meaning to local agencies.
The Department of Homeland Security continues to keep state and local authorities abreast of their efforts as much as practicable. The FBI maintains an information flow through the TEWG to ensure that the national team is fully aware of pertinent information. The Department of the Army sends a periodic Terrorism Intelligence Summary that typically exceeds 10 pages, from which information important to local agencies can be gleaned. Our e-mail system is clogged daily with myriad homeland security information that needs to be reviewed to ensure important information flows to the officer on the beat.
All of these well-intentioned efforts at information sharing have created a read and-review nightmare for local agencies. Somebody has to sift through all of this information and determine what needs to be passed on for review or acted upon. Often this task falls upon the police chief, who is in a position to determine the need-to-know status of information. Many chiefs spend an hour a day accomplishing this task, and then additional time and effort in the use of that which is determined to be pertinent. Policies, procedures, operations orders, and so on can be affected by information flow. At the very least, the strategies and patrol tactics employed by officers on the beat continue to be affected by voluminous homeland security information.
The Practice of Practice
Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. In the interest of homeland security the U.S. law enforcement community has geared up a tremendous offense with the information sharing and cooperation of local, state, and federal agencies. Whereas the disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast exposed many weaknesses in the actual hands-on practice of cooperation, it also showed the strengths of cooperation when the politicians stepped aside. The lessons learned from Katrina will no doubt bolster the ability of federal, state, and local resources to work together in mitigating natural disasters or terrorist attacks. But it doesn't end with emergency services cooperation. Local efforts with community involvement such as Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS), citizen police and fire academies, and myriad community policing efforts will help ensure that our homeland remains secure. It is the responsibility of the emergency service agencies to cooperate with one another and then take that cooperative effort to citizens, not only for their edification but also for their assistance. Just as it is the community that really determines its own level of safety, the United States will, in the end, demand and determine its own level of security. ■