President’s Message: Taking Command Initiative: An Update

As you may recall, in November 2004 the IACP launched an aggressive project to assess homeland security efforts in the United States and to develop and implement the actions necessary to protect our communities from both crime and terrorism.

This project, the Taking Command Initiative, brought together the IACP Executive Committee and IACP Board of Officers for a series of intensive and interactive deliberations on the state of homeland security in the United States, the effectiveness of federal efforts since 2001, and what steps should be taken to improve our collective security.

During these discussions, participants were asked to identify those areas of the current homeland security effort that are working well, those areas that are not, and what roadblocks to success exist. It was hoped that in this way participants could identify those specific homeland security programs and initiatives that are most in need of correction and that suggestions for improvement could be made.

However, as discussions progressed, a strong consensus emerged around the premise that federally led efforts, while well intentioned, have not led to the development of a cohesive strategy that will allow state, tribal, local, and other nonfederal public safety officials to protect their communities successfully.

These law enforcement executives came to the conclusion that our nation’s current homeland security strategy is handicapped by a fundamental flaw: it was developed without sufficiently seeking or incorporating the advice, expertise, or consent of public safety organizations at the state or local level.

Further consensus developed over the belief that there was a critical need to develop a new homeland security strategy, one that fully embraces the valuable and central role that the nonfederal public safety community must play.

Working from that premise, the IACP has identified five key principles that must form the basis of, and be incorporated into, the development and implementation of a national homeland security strategy if it is to protect our communities from the menace of terrorism:

  • Homeland security proposals must be developed in a local context, acknowledging that local, not federal, authorities have the primary responsibility for preventing, responding to and recovering from terrorist attacks.
  • Prevention, not just response and recovery, must be paramount in any national, state, or local security strategy. For too long, federal strategies have minimized the importance of prevention, instead focusing on response and recovery.
  • Because of their daily efforts to combat crime and violence in their communities, state and local law enforcement officers are uniquely situated to identify, investigate, and apprehend suspected terrorists.
  • Homeland security strategies must be coordinated nationally, not federally.
  • 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 our homeland.

These five principles are the centerpiece of a new IACP report titled “From Hometown Security to Homeland Security: IACP’s Principles for a Locally Designed and Nationally Coordinated Homeland Security Strategy,” available at ( They will also serve as guideposts for the next steps in the IACP Taking Command Initiative. In the coming weeks and months, the IACP, through its various divisions, sections, and committees, will undertake projects designed to turn the concept of a locally designed, nationally coordinated homeland security strategy into a reality.

The IACP will begin work to develop a national strategy blueprint that will address critical areas of need, such as the development of prevention and response plans, hiring and training needs, and resource and funding strategies. The association will also work to redefine the mission of police agencies in the 21st century and to clarify the roles of federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement in our post-September 11 reality. As this effort progresses, the IACP will also work to identify, collect, and disseminate best practices and innovations in areas such as intelligence gathering and information sharing, threat assessment, deployment strategies, equipment needs and standards, and public-private partnerships.

The IACP will also reach out to our counterparts in the law enforcement, fire, EMS, and emergency management communities, as well as our federal partners, to join with us to identify, discuss, and solve the critical issues confronting the public safety community in the post-September 11 era.