Over ten years after that fateful September day, many police agencies have gone back to the September 10th mindset. They do not provide terrorism awareness training to officers. Two reasons stand out above the rest; (a) little or no budget available, especially for smaller or remote departments and (b) complacency has set in. Incredibly, some areas have not dedicated even one officer for anti-terrorism training. A specially-trained terrorism liaison officer is needed in the very possible event that either “homegrown” terror or a foreign terror cell is operating in your community.
Immediately following 9/11, it was standing room only at weekly regional terrorism intelligence meetings at agencies across the country. But as the weeks, months, and years passed, the numbers dwindled except for the “regulars”; those who never lost sight of the looming threat. In some cases, those meetings have been reduced to only a few times a year.
I have interviewed numerous officers in various agencies since that time. They tell me that when they take a report of a suspicious incident that may relate to terrorism, they refer it to their state fusion center or send a copy of the report to the FBI and that’s the end of it. There is no follow up and no communication with anybody as far as ongoing investigation is concerned. Many of these officers have commented that they believe that it is federal law enforcement’s responsibility to investigate these matters because terrorism is a federal offense.
It’s true that federal law enforcement has more resources than most local agencies. However, it is not only the federal government which bears the responsibility; it is also the local First Responder’s job to investigate these incidents of potential danger.
As First Responders, we cannot remain in a pre-9/11 mindset. While not becoming paranoid, First Responders should understand that the threat of a terror attack is always looming. Even where terrorism is a major concern of federal law enforcement, the local, state, and campus police that interact with the general public should be the front line defenders. When we learn of a thwarted terror plot here on U.S. soil, we learn that these suspects lived and worked in OUR communities and traveled the streets daily.
The U.S. lacks local or state counter-terrorism training. Since the removal of some of the world’s most dangerous terror perpetrators, this complacency seems to incubate itself deeper amongst the local police department’s decision making fraternities. The essential priorities of many police agencies on incorporating terrorism awareness into their traditional policing strategies are simply lacking and, in turn, our communities are exposed.
The reaction, if a critical incident or mass casualty event occurs specifically due to a terror attack, will be exactly what the terrorist group or organization wants… chaos, carnage, and terror.
Implementing a terrorism policy is essential. This policy is a professional start to laying the groundwork for terrorism awareness training, intelligence gathering, dissemination, and most importantly, public awareness training.
If your agency does not have an antiterrorism policy in place, find an organization or agency that has a good policy and make it work for your department. Each agency has policies that dictate every facet of duties and responsibilities. Terrorism must be addressed. The guidelines dictated by policy, including training, intelligence gathering and sharing (within law enforcement and to the general public when necessary), as well as mutual aid in the event of a threat or critical incident, will save lives.
Counterterrorism in Daily Policing: The Israel National Police Model
On May 14, 1948 the state of Israel was formed. Within 24 hours, Israel was attacked by its neighboring countries. Israeli security forces have had a daily struggle against terrorism and there is no sign of that ending.
The Israel National Police (INP) was founded in 1974. Before that, the military had been in charge of the country’s security. The INP structure was created following the British model. The model is similar to U.S. law enforcement agencies, but with one major difference: The emphasis on counterterrorism.
The INP has been using successful techniques that detect, delay, and deter terror attacks. In Israel, almost 90% of all terror attacks are stopped. Despite the daily threat of suicide bombers and rocket attacks, Israelis go about their daily lives with minimal inconvenience. They have adapted and learned to live with the threat.
For the INP, it’s not just a matter of showing up for duty, working your shift, and punching out. Policing is a matter of survival for a nation. In Israel, every officer, no matter what rank, is a counterterrorism officer and responsible for identifying and thwarting the next potential terror attack.
The INP and their techniques have quietly been the counterterrorism model for police agencies worldwide for many years.
As someone who regularly trains with the INP, I have learned that the development of good counter-terrorism techniques in policing did not happen overnight for them. Their techniques have evolved over the years, but by being proactive, using intelligence-led policing, trend analysis, and “behavior profiling,” they have learned to interdict the majority of terror attacks.
“Behavior Profiling” is not a new technique. As police officers on the street, we employ our “powers of observation” when evaluating a subject. We are actually “profiling” the behavior of a person based on their actions and body language, who possibly has committed or is about to commit a crime. That’s what we are taught from Day One.
We just don’t like to call this by its real name. Behavior profiling is used by security forces in airports and at the US Border to interdict a variety of crimes. El Al Airlines has been utilizing behavioral profiling techniques for years because it works!
It’s not any different when it comes to counterterrorism methods in the US. Many of us in law enforcement are afraid to even use the word “profiling” in a sentence. History has taught us that there is no stereotypical terrorist, so the argument by some that racial profiling is being used by US law enforcement in antiterrorism efforts is not a valid one. Terrorists span all ages, race, gender, ethnic, and religious boundaries.
“Trend Analysis” is also a key thing we need monitor to help predict what type of future attacks we may encounter. For example, the November 26-29, 2008 Mumbai, India terror attacks were multi-pronged, involved active-shooter scenarios with multiple assailants, and caused significant damage. The results included 164 people murdered and over 300 seriously injured. The 2008 Mumbai attack lasted 3 days!
Terror groups around the world took note of the death and carnage caused by that one incident. Subsequently, we have seen a worldwide trend of attacks that closely resemble the Mumbai operation.
October 23, 2011, was the 28th anniversary of the Islamic Jihad suicide attack on the US Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon which killed 241 US Marines. This was the writing on the wall for modern-day, international terrorism against the United States. We did not recognize this warning until years later, because we did not understand who our enemy was, let alone this particular global threat.
Antiterrorism and counterterrorism MUST be part of 21st century policing in America. It needs to be incorporated into basic recruit academy training and annual in-service training at a minimum. If you are a member of your agency’s command staff or a department chief, you have a duty to those under your command to offer them the best terrorism awareness training available. It is a duty to your community to provide the necessary safeguards they need.
Many agencies don’t provide the training time, overtime or funding for terrorism awareness seminars because they claim they can’t afford it. Can your agency afford NOT to educate your officers on the threat? If you don’t recognize the threat, how can you identify it and then defeat it?
Our enemies are conducting asymmetrical warfare on us and have been for some time. It’s time we got out of that 20th century mindset and take the fight to the enemy. That is how we will win this battle. This is what the INP has learned to do. It is working and saving lives.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we are at war. Our enemies do not discriminate between civilians and soldiers. They do not recognize sovereign borders. To them, a 5 year-old child is no different than a uniformed soldier on the battlefield. How many more lives have to be lost to 9/11-type tragedies, Mumbai or Beslan School-style massacres or Oklahoma City-type bombings before law enforcement recognizes the American way of life as we have known it is becoming a thing of the past?
It’s OUR RESPONSIBILTY on the local, state and federal levels to protect our community, our homeland, and our way of life. We MUST be committed to detect, delay, and deter terrorism from all enemies, both foreign and domestic.
Ask yourself: Are you ready?
Detective Brian J. Smith is a 16-year veteran officer with a Boston-area police department. He is the Terrorism Liaison Officer with the Department of Homeland Security. Detective Smith is a DHS-certified antiterrorism instructor, firearms instructor, and specializes in dignitary/close-protection training. He is a former US Army Military Police member, where he began his counterterrorism training and law enforcement career. Brian is the president of BJ Smith Consulting, LLC. He serves as the U.S. Director of Operations for M.K. International Security Consulting, Ltd., one of Israel’s top homeland security solutions companies. Brian consults throughout the US and internationally on mass-casualty response, cultural/ethnic diversity, and counterterrorism for local law enforcement. Brian regularly brings US-based public safety professionals to Israel to cross-train with the Israel National Police.