Law enforcementand Terrorism
The September 11th attack triggered a change in the entirecountry’s security landscape with several measures taken toincrease security. Terrorism seeks to spread fear beyond itsimmediate victim, and it seeks to achieve this by targeting areaswith a large population or strategic positions that will havedetrimental effects on the target country’s economy. It is evidentthat terrorism has undergone a transition such that every part of thecountry is constantly facing the threat. After the September 11thattack, the country has witnessed several terrorist attacks insmaller localities although with less causalities. This includes theLittle Rock shooting by Carlos Bledsoe as well as the 2002 HeshamHadayet`s attack at LAX airport. Containing terrorism involvescollecting intelligence, thwarting their plans before theymaterialize, containing the damage their cause and finally,dismantling them and their organizations. This paper focuses on howthe local police execute the above tasks and will also address whythe local police and not the federal agencies, are best positioned tohandle these task. More specifically, this paper will explore theways local police respond and their roles after a terrorist attack.
There are several factors that make local law enforcement agenciesthe best positioned to respond to a terrorist attack. First, they arelarge in numbers. According to Michael Downing in his articlePolicing Terrorism in the United States: The Los Angeles PoliceDepartment’s Convergence Strategy, statistics given by the Bureauof Justice shows the ratio of local police to federal agents asapproximately 10:1. On this note, while America boasts of 16 federalagencies, it has 17,500 local law enforcement agencies. This showsthat the local police will always surpass the federal agents in ascene of a terrorist attack.
The second factor is speed. Local police have the best grassrootsnetwork which they depend on to contain crimes such as robbery,mugging, and drug trafficking, among others. According to MathewWaxman in the article, Police and National Security: American LocalEnforcement and Counterterrorism After 9/11, unlike the federalagents local police have a broader public service, law and ordermandate thus, they tend to penetrate the community more often andwith much ease (399). Using the same network which is highlyeffective, local police are in a better position to conductsurveillance and arrests regarding terrorist activities. Thirdly,according to Mathew Waxman, local enforcement enjoys a large pool ofresources that can be tapped to safeguard the country from theterrorist threat. This ranges from the legal resources such as powersof search and seizure of evidence, arrests of suspects to thenon-legal ones such as the power of community policing.
There are several ways local police go through and respond to thearea around them after the terrorist attack. First, in a case of aterrorist attack, the local police respond by conducting a safetyanalysis of the area. They do this by assessing whether there areparts of the building that may still be falling. According to EdwardTully and Bud Willoughby in the article Terrorist: The Role of Localand State Police Agencies, local police are mandated with theresponsibility of responding to attack by firing toward the terroristin case they are still present in the scene. Additionally, theyundertake the identification of critical targets such as fuelinstallation that may be prone to subsequent attacks. Sometimes andespecially in rural areas, terrorist find it hard to achieve a highnumber of casualties. Therefore, they undertake to cause a smallexplosion as a way of achieving a multitude after which they strike.Thus, to ensure the safety of the scene of a terrorist attack, thelocal police disburse the member of the public who may have crowdedaround the scene. In case the terrorists attack result in a fire,local police ensure that no one get close to the target area untilthe fire personnel have cleared the area. Additionally, the localpolice ensure that there are no terrorists amidst the victims thus,upon arriving at the scene of terrorist attacks and after ensuringtheir safety, they clean the area of any suspect who may bedisguising as a civilian.
As the local police are the first law enforcement agency to arrive ata scene of a terrorist attack, they disseminate information to otheremergency service providers, the victims and the members of thepublic. For example, according Robert Chapman and colleagues in apublication titled, Local Law Enforcement Respond to Terrorism, after-the September 11 attack, the Baltimore City Police held amulti-agency meeting in which they incorporated large projectionscreens, phones, data processing and mapping software for propercoordination of communications involving the incidence (8). Wheneverterrorist attack, their major goal is to spread fear hence, the lawenforcement officers are trained on how to disseminate information tocontain the panic. Furthermore according to Chapman and colleagues,the local police are mandated with the task of acquiringcommunication equipment and technology to be used by the firstresponders. This ensures one source of information on a terroristattack. If this is not well executed, terrorist emerges victoriousafter achieving their goal of spreading fear. Thus, the local lawenforcement has the role of calming down the victims of crimes andthe public by disseminating well-crafted information that is not onlyreassuring but also that depict the terrorists as failures.
After a terrorist attack, local police respond to the scene throughintelligence gathering. After the September 11 attack, many local lawenforcement agencies reconstructed and expanded their intelligenceunits. Before this, many local law enforcement held the idea thatcollection of terrorism intelligence was the mandate of federalagencies. Upon arriving at the scene of a terrorists attack and afterconfirming the safety of the environment, the local police conductpreliminary investigation such as brushing for fingerprints andbullet residues to provide information that may aid in theidentification of the suspects. For instance according to apublication by Robert Chapman, by questioning the victim of aterrorist attack, local police officers can obtain a profile of theterrorist which they can dispatch to other agencies such as the localand federal counterterrorism agency and all police officers bothlocally and internationally. This information which may include thephoto images of the potential perpetrators in case fingerprints arefound at the scene of attack is circulated to all law enforcementdatabases and the social media platforms to fasten the process ofapprehending the suspects.
Thirdly, in corroboration with other emergency service providerssuch as the Red Cross, firefighters, first Aid personnel, localpolice help in evacuating the victims. As stated earlier, due to theproximity of the local law enforcement and the scene of terroristattacks in case it happens in a local jurisdiction, local police areusually the first to arrive. Therefore, according to Mayer Matt andErickson Scott in the article, Changing Today’s Law EnforcementCulture to Face 2st- Century Threats, following the 9/11 attack, somestate such as California come up with some programs such as the REACTfor training local police on the way to provide emergency response toterrorist attack. Furthermore, according to Edward Tully andWilloughby Bud, the local police undertake to plan and executelong-term and short-term medical assistance and biological agentneutralization. While the major role of the local police is toconduct investigations, arrest the suspects and presents them in acourt of law, local police officers are usually trained in emergencyservice provision such as first aid.
In conclusion, the September 11th attack demonstrated thecountry’s exposure to terrorism and called for swift measures tosecuring the country. Such measures included empowering the local lawenforcement to respond to terrorist activity. This move had severalbenefits to the fight against terror. First, local police are manycompared to federal agents and enjoy a wider network due to thenature of their work. For these reasons and due to proximity to thescene of terrorist attacks as most of them are found in the streets,they are usually the first to respond to an attack. Upon arrival,local police’s first responsibility is to ensure the safety of thescene not only to other emergency service providers and the victimsbut also to them. Additionally, local police undertake to arrange forthe communication strategy to be used to convey information about theattack. Thirdly, the local police respond by gathering informationabout the possible perpetrators of the attack. After ensuring thesafety of the area, collecting information about the perpetrators,setting up a communication strategy, local police helps in thedelivery of emergency services as well as the reconstruction of thescene.
Chapman, Robert, et al., Office of Community Oriented PolicingServices. Local Law Enforcement Responds to Terrorism. 2002. Accessedon March 24, 2016.http://ric-zai-inc.com/Publications/cops-w0125-pub.pdf
Downing, Michael. “Policing Terrorism in the United States: The LosAngeles Police Department`s Convergence Strategy." 2016.Retrieved on March 24, 2016.http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=1729&issue_id=22009
Matt, Mayer & Scott Erickson. "Changing Today`s LawEnforcement Culture to Face 2st- Century Threats." 2016.Retrieved on March 24, 2016.http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/06/changing-todays-law-enforcement-culture-to-face-21st-century-threats
Tully, Edward & Willoughby Bud. "Terrorism: The Role ofLocal and State Police Agencies." 2002. Accessed on March 24,2016, http://www.neiassociates.org/terrorism-role-local-state-pol/
Waxman,Matthew C. "Police and national security: American local lawenforcement and counter-terrorism after 9/11." Journalof National Security Law & Policy 3(2009): 377.