The Patrol Officer America's Intelligence on the Ground By EARL M. SWEENEY, M.S.
In recent wars, internationalIpolice conflicts, and military skirmishes, America’s strategists and troops in action have faced the continual challenge of obtaining accurate "intelligence on the ground." Neither satellite photos nor early warning radar can achieve the level of valuable knowledge provided by well-trained operatives familiar with diverse cultures and languages and well-funded intelligence agencies cooperating fully to coordinate their findings. Now that this country has become the target of international terrorists, the need for accurate intelligence has increased significantly. Unlike during the Cold War when the United States prepared against the threat of missiles fired from across the sea, today, a more likely attack will come from within, designed to strike fear in the populace, disrupt the economy, and destroy the sense of security and the freedom of movement that Americans enjoy. Just as a skirmish in a foreign country requires U.S. troops to have accurate intelligence on the ground in that location, so too does the prevention and rapid mitigation of terrorist acts within America's borders necessitate the accumulation of pertinent facts about those who wish to commit these attacks.
This nation cannot rely exclusively on technology to provide it with essential information to help fight this different kind of enemy: one as diverse and numerous as the imagination of those who have shown an ability to turn everyday products and equipment-- from large airliners to crop dusters, tractor-trailer units to backpacks, and model airplanes to toy rockets--into instruments of death and destruction. Whether male or female, young or old, or foreigners who harbor grudges against cultures and religions dating back to the Middle Ages or homegrown Americans with rightor left-wing leanings that impel them to commit violent acts, these adversaries have lived and moved freely in this country, planning their attacks and gathering the necessary materials. Technology alone cannot safeguard America from such threats. Instead, this nation must have intelligence on the ground that involves an awareness and understanding of the people and cultures in each community and that has the ability to interact with these individuals to gain their trust and cooperation.
Fortunately, this country has a largely untapped and unrecognized source of intelligence on terrorists and potential terrorist acts: the local police officer, the county deputy sheriff, and the state trooper or highway patrol officer. While conducting their daily activities, such as foot, vehicle, and bicycle patrol; community policing efforts; traffic stops; accident investigations; and answering calls for service, these officers already are accepted by their communities and, therefore, can become America's intelligence on the ground. The challenge is to train them in what to look for, what to report, and how and to whom to report it, ensuring that appropriate follow-up occurs and that these officers receive feedback and appreciation for their efforts.
TOOLS IN PLACE As a team, the Highway Safety Committee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have engaged in numerous projects aimed at increasing the interest of law enforcement officers and administrators in proactive traffic patrol. Examples include Traffic Safety in the New Millennium: Strategies for Law Enforcement--A Planning Guide for Law Enforcement Executives, Administrators, and Managers;
The Highway Safety Desk Book; and Police Traffic Services Policies and Procedures. These publications, available on the International Association of Chiefs of Police Web site at http://www.theiacp.org, are updated on a regular basis. Recent revisions have included references to the possibility of interdicting and preventing terrorism through the activities of officers engaged in traffic patrol.
"Traffic law enforcement gives officers at the state, local, and county police levels the unparalleled opportunity to save lives. The causal relationship between consistent, goal-oriented enforcement and casualty reduction stands clear and unimpeachable....Yet, today an emerging secondary benefit reinforces the value of roving patrol officers. They have become major crime fighters! America's long-standing reliance on the motor vehicle has put crime literally on the nation's streets and highways. Murderers, robbers, auto thieves, and drug traffickers all travel by motor vehicle. And, when they violate the traffic laws--a frequent occurrence because criminals typically are preoccupied by their crimes-- that familiar police light appears in the mirror. This once meant two things: a short conversation with the officer and a traffic citation. Today, much more can follow....The subject's demeanor, the caliber of responses to questions, a lack of knowledge of the vehicle--these and similar factors noted by the alert, trained observer recommend further investigation. And, further investigation pays off in criminal arrests."1
A noted criminologist stated, "The higher the level of traffic enforcement, the lower the level of robbery. Aggressive traffic enforcement creates a broad general effect of deterrence." He also has said that some crimes can be prevented simply by a visible police presence.2
The misbegotten idea that stopping motorists somehow hurts police-community relations has hampered traffic law enforcement efforts in some locales. Community policing and traffic enforcement need not be mutually exclusive. "These new policing styles also realize that the officer on the beat or in the squad car, delivering direct police services to the people, often is in the best position to recognize problems" as the police go about the task of reducing fear and making a safer environment.3 To a large extent, how well the public accepts police traffic enforcement depends on the attitude and approach of the officers as they go about this task.
Pointing out both the criticality of police-citizen contacts to community relations and the wellspring of information that can be derived through increasing these contacts, a national survey indicated that in 1 year, 21 percent of citizens had a contact with the police and that 52 percent of those encounters involved traffic stops, whereas only 19 percent were to report a crime. In only 1 percent of these did the police have to use any physical force, and 84 percent of the drivers stopped felt that they deserved it.4
As law enforcement agencies have used traffic enforcement and community policing in communities throughout the United States to reduce both traffic crashes and street crime and to apprehend more criminals and wanted persons, they certainly could employ the same strategies to deter and apprehend terrorists and root out sleeper cells buried within their jurisdictions. Some police researchers have theorized that one reason terrorists have not been as bold in this
country rests with the fragmented nature of law enforcement. Rather than having a national police force, American law enforcement consists of a hodgepodge of federal officers plus more than 17,000 state, county, and local officers wearing different uniforms and driving vehicles of varied appearance, working, in many cases, in small geographic areas on contrasting schedules and adhering to a mixture of policies. Some feel that this diversity makes it more difficult for terrorists, especially those familiar with police in foreign countries, to predict when and where they will encounter a police presence and that this, in itself, may serve as a deterrent.
TRAINING NEEDS Americans do not want a future where terrorism becomes as common a street crime as robberies of all-night convenience stores. To prevent this, law enforcement officials need to study the modus operandi of the terrorists in other nations and determine from their counterparts in these countries what has worked and what has not in preventing and reacting to terrorist violence. Then, they must communicate this information to patrol officers, detectives, supervisors, and administrators in a form that they can use, ensuring that they remain proactive in their efforts to identify potential terrorist threats.
To keep American communities safe from terrorists, all law enforcement officers must learn certain techniques and tactics. Teaching them will take time and cost money. Most state POST (peace officer standards and training) commissions or councils require police academies to provide recruits with a minimum number of hours or weeks of basic academy training. Typically, this ranges from 10 to 16 weeks. Some major metropolitan police departments and state police or highway patrol agencies provide additional basic training beyond what the state regulatory agency deems necessary, often doubling the requirement. But, this remains far less than that required of police officers in Europe, where their entry-level training may consume a year or more.
Allocating Funds The cost of providing basic training is high, both in terms of the actual expenses of operating an academy and the salary paid to the recruits while attending, including the overtime or backfill to cover the vacant shift until the newly hired officers can perform adequately. Some states have restrictions in their constitutions against passing unfunded mandates along to local units of government. This means that if the state does not have the financial resources to reimburse the counties, towns, or cities for the cost of lengthening the academy, it cannot expand the curriculum. Some jurisdictions have attempted to short-circuit this requirement by offering all or part of the basic academy curriculum on a tuition basis, either at a regular academy or through the community college system, to persons willing to expend their own funds to prepare themselves for a law enforcement career. If antiterrorism training beyond the most basic becomes part of the curriculum, tuition students must be screened and background checked as carefully as actual police hires. After all, terrorists have shown their willingness to enroll in flight schools to fulfill their suicide missions of flying airplanes into buildings, so they undoubtedly would welcome the chance to attend police schools and learn what U.S. officers are being taught about terrorism.
Just as with any other effort at training law enforcement officers, terrorism subjects beyond the usual introductory weapons of mass destruction classes should become part of the curriculum used in FTO (field training officer) programs; roll-call briefings; annual update training; and as part of supervisory, mid-man-agement, and executive-level professional development programs. Training officers should be required to include antiterrorism instruction in their annual plans and to budget time and human resources to make it happen.
Once again, the cost of expanding the amount of time devoted to in-service training remains a problem for local, county, and state agencies. Some state POST agencies currently require officers to complete a specified number of hours of professional development training as a condition of continued certification. This varies from state to state, anywhere from 8 hours a year to 80 hours every 2 years. As with basic training, state constitutional or legislative restrictions on unfunded mandates may hinder increasing the amount of in-service training delivered.
Overcoming these obstacles requires creative thinking. States should consider allocating more of their terrorism prevention funds made available in federal grants to reimburse police academies for backfill and overtime costs associated with lengthening both their basic training and professional development programs to offer more terror-ism-related training. At the federal level, legislators should allocate specific funding to local and state police academies to further the advancement of such training.
Using Technology Technology may help in the search for more innovative and efficient means of training delivery. In addition to such ordinary items as roll-call videos, audiotapes for officers to play at odd moments in their cruisers, CDs for laptops, and satellite broadcasts to remote locations, numerous other ways can carry more training to the officer, rather than always bringing the officer to a remote site for training. For example, New Hampshire and Kansas are conducting an experiment to supply public safety and emergency medical personnel with 24-hour educational programming via satellite hookups and television sets installed in every police station, fire department, and trauma hospital in the state. This will offer a regular schedule of training in a variety of subjects with a special emphasis on terrorism. The schedule includes several hours of locally based, state-specific programming.
While not all subjects can be taught in a typical classroom environment or by television hookup, all training must be practiced on a regular basis because the skills needed to combat terrorism are perishable. Some academies recently have added terrorist scenarios to their firearms training and vehicular pursuit simulators. Others have included them in officer-sur-vival scenarios in their basic and in-service programs. The New Hampshire Police Academy is one of several that has acquired a portable, scale-model mock-up of a typical community. The academy takes the model around the state, giving law enforcement officers, firefighters, public works officials, and others the opportunity to participate in a range of scenarios involving natural disasters and terrorist acts as a means of practicing the unified command principles of the Incident Command System (ICS) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS), recently mandated by Congress for all states as a condition of continued receipt of federal funds.
Gathering Intelligence One of the most important tasks involves increasing the ability of local, county, and state law enforcement organizations to gather intelligence. After perceived abuses in the 1960s, many agencies disbanded their intelligence units. Others never had the need to develop an intelligence function and, therefore, must learn. If departments truly regard their patrol officers and general assignment detectives as America's intelligence on the ground, they cannot reserve this training for special units; every sworn officer needs a basic awareness.
Terrorists may tip their hands before an attack in many different ways. They may purchase or steal military equipment; buy or rent heavy vehicles or limousines; lease crop dusters; purchase former police vehicles or ambulances at auction; attend schools to qualify for commercial driver licenses with hazardous materials endorsements; buy or steal industrial chemicals, fertilizers, explosives, detonation devices, and containers for constructing bombs; enroll in flight schools; videotape critical infrastructure, such as public buildings and bridges, for surveillance and to test security measures of local police presence in and around such sites; make threats or brag to friends, family, or like-minded individuals or on Web sites; travel to countries known to host terrorist activities; have sudden new or unidentified sources of income; meet with known radical persons or groups; or display sudden changes in behavior, such as giving away their property or going on "one last fling" of worldly pleasures.
Law enforcement officers may discover clues to impending terrorist threats that would help fill in the missing parts of an investigation. Officers must know what to look for in traffic stops and regular patrols. They must gain a new appreciation for the importance of regular, ongoing contacts with private security personnel assigned to critical sites because a 3-to-1 ratio of private to public police currently exists in this country. Officers on the street also must learn to use their community policing skills in new ways to develop and acquire assets among trusted citizens, such as media representatives, religious leaders, community activists, and professionals.5 Liaison with college campus police can prove particularly important as research facilities and other campus activities may comprise potential terrorist targets.6
Increasing Cultural Awareness Through no fault of their own, innocent members of certain ethnic and religious groups share a common background or heritage with the particular terrorists who currently constitute the greatest threat to Americans. Because of this, authorities must develop methods that protect the innocent from investigative harassment and hate crimes yet allow the penetration of terrorist cells and the practice of proactive street inquiries into suspicious persons and circumstances to continue.
Law enforcement officials can accomplish this by giving their officers more training in cultural awareness and competence; by creatively using the media to reach minority communities; and by increasing everyday, friendly patrol contacts with members of these groups. Cultivating friendships between police executives and the leaders of these communities, as well as between patrol officers and everyday citizens, can help overcome these barriers and educate community members as to what and how to report suspicious activities.
Moreover, providing them with feedback when they do can further cement the relationship. Neighborhood Watch groups and citizen police academies can expand their missions to include a focus on detecting terrorists and terrorist cells. Real estate agents can furnish information about groups of seemingly unrelated persons who purchase or lease property in remote areas that may lead to the discovery, if not of a sleeper terrorist cell, of someone setting up a methamphetamine lab or some other illegal enterprise. Other accurate street intelligence can come from cultivating regular contacts with personnel at retail outlets for bomb-making materials, such as stores that sell electrical components, car and truck rental companies, and chemical and fertilizer businesses.
Educating officers in the customs of the various ethnic and religious groups in their communities can help them avoid actions that some might view as disrespectful or insulting. For example, officers need to learn about removing their shoes before entering a mosque and postponing contacts with Muslims on religious holidays, during prayers, or on sacred days. Male officers should minimize eye contact with Arab females during conversations or interviews and should never enter Arab houses uninvited when no males are present. Officers visiting Arab homes also should not slouch in chairs or display the soles of the shoes to the hosts when visiting.7 Other ethnic groups have similar sensitive characteristics, such as the reverence shown by Asians to their elders, that officers must learn.
Interestingly, most law enforcement officers seldom react favorably to cultural awareness courses billed as "sensitivity" classes that concentrate only on past transgressions and infer that officers are thoughtless and unfeeling. Instead, the cultural competency training that focuses on officer survival resonates best. If officers believe that the training will help them better detect and react to or defuse a threat, gather more information in an investigation, and avoid becoming the target of a lawsuit or disciplinary action, they likely will listen and absorb the information.
Recognizing the Threat Patrol officers need specialized training because they may be the first responders to a bombing or other terrorist act, or they may discover a terrorist act in progress while on special duty protecting a critical asset or during a heightened or intensified patrol of a potential target area. They must know how to--
spot attackers, such as suicide bombers;
carry out rescue and evacuation tasks simultaneously with investigative duties and countersurveillance to detect accomplices who may have remained nearby to make sure the attack succeeded; and
protect themselves while responding to such incidents.
This training must involve not only the proper use of personal protective equipment and the role of the patrol officer in the incident command system but also the possibility of multiple, synchronized attacks or secondary explosive devices placed to harm first responders. Patrol officers need to know, for example, that suicide bombers may wear clothing out of sync with the weather, their location, or their social positions; carry heavy luggage, bags, or backpacks; repeatedly and nervously pat their upper bodies with their hands; display hyper-vigilant stares; or fail to respond to voice commands. When they detect these telltale signs, officers must know the best course of action to take.8
Law enforcement executives, administrators, and other high-level commanders will benefit from training and discussions that increase their familiarity and comfort level with the principles of NIMS and ICS, the legal issues surrounding police surveillance and intelligence-gathering activities, the emerging nature of terrorist threats, the methods for identifying the top terrorist targets located in or near their jurisdictions, the availability of federal grants and effective techniques for developing grant requests, and the appropriate modifications to resource allocation that they should make during periods of heightened terrorist alert. Local, county, state, and federal agencies in the area will profit from regularly scheduled conference calls to assess the nature of any current threats and quarterly face-to-face meetings with presentations by intelligence analysts and others. Depending on the level of threat and activity in a given area, Compstatstyle briefings with mapping and geographic analysis can help ensure that mid-managers, precinct and bureau commanders, and others take the terrorist threat seriously and follow up on intelligence information.9
FEEDBACK AND RECOGNITION While providing training to patrol officers constitutes an extremely important aspect of countering the threat of terrorism, an equally crucial factor involves recognizing the efforts of those officers. Law enforcement agencies must ensure that their officers know how to gather and report potential terrorism intelligence, that they have an organized way of receiving and evaluating this information, and that they can pass it on quickly to the proper authorities. But, departments also must acknowledge the patrol officer or citizen who reports something of interest. This does not mean disclosing sensitive information or strategies but simply thanking the person and indicating what additional information might help. If the information leads to an arrest, the officer or citizen who provided it should receive recognition and the deserved accolades.
Feedback and recognition can build closer alliances between "wholesale and retail law enforcement," the officers who provide the raw intelligence data and those who distill and act upon it. Requiring detectives and intelligence analysts to attend patrol roll-call briefings and make presentations at training programs can foster a better working relationship and show patrol officers the importance of their contributions. In addition, receiving feedback can help patrol officers distinguish the types of information that they should attempt to acquire and, thus, enhance their intelligence-gathering abilities.
CONCLUSION Today, the United States faces its greatest threat since the atomic bomb: foreign and domestic terrorism. Such a challenge requires the wholehearted commitment of every citizen to maintain a constant vigilance to detect those who wish this country harm.
One largely untapped resource, however, can provide America with accurate intelligence about an enigmatic enemy. A cadre of well-trained police officers, deputy sheriffs, and state troopers and highway patrol officers, familiar with their local communities and keenly aware of their vital role in safeguarding innocent lives, can significantly hinder even the most determined terrorist. The law enforcement profession always has stood at the forefront whenever this nation faced peril and will continue its protective role to ensure a safe future for all law-abiding individuals.
A noted criminologist stated, "The higher the level of traffic enforcement, the lower the level of robbery. Aggressive traffic enforcement creates a broad general effect of deterrence."
Aries, First off, thank you for this and the other posts; this is useable information for all of us.
Regarding the copied paragraph above, I have to state (from a non-law enforcement, civilian motorist point of view), that motorists really don't (as a whole) appreciate that type of traffic enforcement.
Do I have an axe to grind? No. My driving record is exemplary, including not driving while intoxicated. I DO drive with the flow of traffic. The flow is usually 10-15 miles ABOVE the posted limit. I don't always wear my seat belt either; and I shouldn't be ordered to. Of course, our "enlightened" Legislatures have, in many states, ordered Law Enforcement to pull us over for just that.
I mentioned an exemplary record but then mention my driving habits. Have I been pulled over? sure; and for the above stated "violations." I payed my fine and kept it off my permanent record through the graces of whatever Judge I stood before (three times in driving 24 years).
Robberies would go down WITHOUT aggressive traffic enforcement if more folks would be willing to protect their own person/property.