Focus on Officer Safety The Future of Law Enforcement Safety Training in the Face of Terrorism The articles contained in this issue were presented at the Future of Law Enforcement Safety Training in the Face of Terrorism conference held at the FBI Academy on January 3 through 7, 2005. Anthony J. Pinizzotto and Edward F. Davis with the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI's Training and Development Division and Charles E. Miller III with the Training and Systems Education Unit of the Criminal Justice Information Services Division hosted 50 individuals from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. The attendees represented street-level officers, supervisors, administrators, and trainers.
One of the goals of the conference involved examining in-formation-gathering methods and disseminating more data to members of the criminal justice system by the FBI's Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted Program. Sharing their keen insights into current and future requirements of the law enforcement community, the conference participants recognized the need to develop better, realistic, and more focused safety training. Historical data gathered and published annually in the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report have enabled researchers to predict under what circumstances officers will continue to die while performing their official duties. A dire necessity exists to establish different ways to train officers to survive these daily interactions with criminal elements, both foreign and domestic.
On September 11, 2001, a group of terrorists not only deliberately caused death and destruction at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in the skies above the United States but also killed 73 of this nation's law enforcement officers. This resulted in more felonious deaths of officers than died due to adversarial action for that entire year. This tragedy caused a reexamination of training philosophies concerning law enforcement safety. Future training programs, while incorporating traditional safety methods to combat criminal assaults, also must focus on the possibility of additional terrorist attacks.
The Future of Law Enforcement Safety Training in the Face of Terrorism conference examined two areas of law enforcement training: 1) issues regarding traditional training in law enforcement and 2) the need to develop new and innovative ways to implement law enforcement safety issues in training curricula. The articles in this publication reflect these views.
Most law enforcement agencies have mottos on their patrol vehicles that include the phrase "To Protect and Serve." Officers continue to protect their communities from terrorists, as well as the criminal element. But, to serve and protect their citizens, officers also must protect themselves.
The Future of Officer Safety in an Age of Terrorism By: MICHAEL E. BUERGER, Ph.D., and BERNARD H. LEVIN, Ed.D. Traditionally, most people consider officer safety in terms of an individual officer, in extreme circumstances, facing a "bad guy" intent upon doing harm to that officer. The armed encounter-- and the possibility of death-- puts into high relief the entire range of tactical defenses that have constant application: awareness of the environment, including reading "cues" from subjects; threat assessment; and approach and contact techniques, such as handcuffing, weapons retention, and firearms handling and use. The elements that officers must focus on are concentrated in time and, usually, space, with the majority of violent encounters occurring within a 10- to 20-foot radius.1
We do not intend to denigrate or underestimate the importance of incident-specific tactical defenses, which remain critical parts of police training. Rather, as futurists, we proffer that the potential for terrorist activity on American soil demands new conceptual understandings and practical applications of officer safety. The elements of safety expand across time and space, broadening the threshold beyond the potential for incident-based contacts. Our offerings here add to the existing canon of safety concerns, building upon it in some instances and supplementing it in others.2
If a terrorist incident occurs as a large-scale public event-- an attack with conventional, chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons against symbolic or densely populated targets-- officer safety concerns change. Individual safety will be subsumed as an element of large-scale concern for survival. Officers will have to take on additional risks in managing the public's safety, as well as dealing with the perpetrators.
Looking at the issue broadly, three main categories, or theaters, of terrorism-related safety concerns exist. The first, intelligence gathering, is a prevention activity. The second involves direct contact with known or suspected terrorists in which the individual officer's safety becomes as acute as in the standard armed encounter. The third, the wake of a successful terror attack and its aftermath, joins the officer's safety with that of the larger public. In addition, a fourth category spans the other three: administrative and supervisory responsibility for management of the long-term and large-scale concerns.
Intelligence and Prevention Training to prevent terrorist attacks is essentially a matter of intelligence gathering. Officers best protect themselves by helping to ensure that no terror attack succeeds. To this end, individual officers must perceive their duties to be more than merely handling calls. Information gathering and, perhaps more important, information seeking represent ongoing efforts that have secondary benefits.
Armed encounters are relatively rare events in most police careers; acts of terror will be even more so. An important theme (and an ongoing lament) of traditional officer training is the need to maintain constant vigilance, even under conditions that seem to belie that edict. Maintaining peak mobilization for long periods of time proves difficult, as Aesop's timeless fable of the boy who cried wolf and the contemporary "orange alert fatigue" demonstrate.3 A conceptual change must occur to mount a sustained, focused intelligence-gathering effort to intercept a devastating event.
Law enforcement agencies can incorporate many of the precepts of community policing into their intelligence-gathering efforts, such as developing cultural awareness, initiating contact with and identifying sympathetic guides and mentors among new immigrant and alternative cultural groups, and maintaining the respect and sympathy of the people being policed. New information concerning potential trouble is much more likely to come from the communities than from patrol-based observation. The ability to act upon intelligence developed outside the locality most likely will require some form of community assistance.
Many of the fundamental activities of traditional policing also will attend the endeavor. Agencies must continue to keep an eye on known perpetrators and identify new players, develop informants and information from the fringes of the underworld, and maintain a baseline understanding of how the neighborhoods live and move to detect when something is "just wrong."
At the intellectual level, officers must maintain an awareness that the targets of their suspicion almost certainly belong to a larger organized enterprise. While officers involved in multijurisdictional task forces and RICO-based investigations understand the demands of enterprise crime investigation, most local officers are trained and indoctrinated with an incident-based frame of reference. Officers will require a longer time frame and broader set of resources to identify a suspect's or a cell's contacts, support bases, and potential targets.
This perceptual shift also places action-oriented officers in a new and unsatisfying role. Instead of intervening directly and "solving" the problem through arrest of an individual, officers will need to remain near-invisible elements in a larger and more deliberate network. Premature individual heroics simply may alert the terrorist network to surveillance and deflect or postpone any planned attack. Critical portions of the network may escape not only arrest but even detection.
These concerns apply only to those few officers who encounter an ongoing or imminent terrorist action. Most of the officers charged with intelligence seeking will contribute little or nothing to any antiterrorist action; those who report activity into the gathering endeavor never will receive positive feedback in the form of an arrest or thwarted attack because they did not cross paths with a terrorist network or associate. This lack of feedback on even local events constitutes a long-standing complaint of local officers; the needle-in-a-haystack nature of terrorism intelligence undoubtedly will exacerbate that problem.
To counter skepticism and disgruntlement, the efforts to develop intelligence on terror must be transformed into a larger understanding of the intelligence function. The same activities will have a local payoff in terms of criminal activity in the officers' jurisdictions, if managed correctly. Clear- and far-sighted officers should make the connection between their activities and traditional (if underserved) functions, such as preventing crime, nipping developing problems in the bud, and integrating new residents into the larger community.
A strategic understanding of community vulnerability will identify critical infrastructure (e.g., power plants, bridges, transportation facilities, and manufacturing concerns) that would make tempting targets for terror attacks.
Interception Antiterrorist preparations must anticipate the possibility that a patrol officer, a detail officer from another assignment, or even an off-duty officer of any rank will encounter one or more terrorists preparing or launching an attack. While most of the interceptions of terrorists have been intelligence based and conducted by federal authorities, officer safety concerns are framed in terms of "it's only a matter of time" before an officer or deputy encounters terrorists on the way to or in the act of mounting an attack. In such an event, the individual officer becomes a secondary but immediate target--someone the terrorists must eliminate to achieve their primary objective. Unplanned interception contacts involve protecting the individual officer's safety in an incident-specific context, similar to the armed encounter but with a wider range of threat.
The possibility of unplanned interception increases if officers take their intelligence duties seriously, particularly a focus on infrastructure sites. Nevertheless, even everyday enforcement actions may instigate the contact. After all, one of the great "What if?" moments in American policing involves the course that history would have taken had authorities stopped Timothy McVeigh in the rental truck on the way to Oklahoma City, rather than afterwards as he fled the area in a car.
Much of the contingency preparation for unplanned interception rests on the nature of the attack contemplated by the terrorists. Conventional assaults, such as the North Hollywood bank shooting on February 17, 1998 (a "shock and awe" takeover robbery in support of militia groups in eastern Europe), may involve a variation of the traditional armed encounter. Discovery of terrorists planting explosives at a critical juncture creates other risks, as do the various scenarios for launching chemical or biological attacks. Officers must anticipate armed terrorists in any encounter, but chemical and biological ones pose special hazards.
Both biological and chemical incidents, as well as the more distant concern of a nuclear "dirty bomb" weapon, require considerable preplanning with public health officials and other emergency responders. Most preplanning events assume a successful or partial attack, however, with little emphasis on serendipitous discovery. Developing a curriculum to prepare officers for such an eventuality remains a pressing need.
Officer safety at the point of discovering a suspected biological, chemical, or nuclear device reflects a new dimension. Effective training should be diverse, able to accommodate the variety of biological and chemical threats ranging from the terrorist to the transportation accident. The likelihood of the latter is considerably greater in the multiple police jurisdictions of the country and provides a more suitable cognitive platform on which to build antiterrorist training.
At the present time, clandestine drug labs and industrial or transportation accidents constitute the primary viable model for chemical attacks but with considerably different surrounding circumstances. These incidents are localized; are accidental, rather than designed to inflict mass casualties; and have smaller areas of danger than a successful terrorist attack. Nevertheless, they form a logical and practical framework for adapting antiterrorist safety training.
A variation on the interception model involves law enforcement officers attacked by terrorist groups or agents. Right-wing separatist groups have targeted public officials with threats, nuisance lawsuits, and, in some cases, violence. While the current public model of "terrorist" is an al Qaeda affiliate, multiple models of potential threats could be transplanted to American soil and used either by foreign or domestic groups.
The potential for incorporation of terrorist methods into criminal actions coexists with terrorist aspirations. Although the ideology that fuels suicide bombings under the guise of "martyr actions" has not been associated with American radicalism, some U.S. cults have embraced suicide (from the Jonestown slaughter to the Heaven's Gate apotheosis); the barrier between the two may be very thin. The threat of sleeper cells may turn out to be more potential concern than actual threat, but law enforcement training should anticipate the arrival or emergence of newer, more lethal assaults.
The Iraqi situation has shown the devastating results of the improvised explosive device (IED) and the vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED). While domestic officers have some experience with bomb training and bomb squads exist, law enforcement agencies should anticipate new wrinkles beyond the Oklahoma City scenario. For example, three Irish nationals with IRA connections were arrested in Colombia in 2001, thought to be teaching bomb-making techniques to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.4 In the wake of the robbery of the Northern Bank in Belfast, police suspect that some element of the IRA is turning to organized crime.5
Resources for coping with any such new threats already exist. Prior to its dissolution, the Royal Ulster Constabulary of Northern Ireland learned to contend with the constant threat of assassination of its officers. The Israeli police have dealt with the potential for renewed suicide bombings on an almost daily basis. Americans training Iraqi police, like those engaged in similar peacekeeping missions in other parts of the globe, have encountered and adapted to variations of similar threats. New and modified training regimens can capitalize on the antiterrorist lessons already learned throughout the world.
Aftermath The odds that terrorists will succeed in launching an attack are slightly greater than those of serendipitous interception. In that event, officers' safety becomes a subordinate part of the general welfare of the citizenry in the attack area. Even more pressing, perhaps, is the fact that officers will have to function under circumstances that also pose a threat to their loved ones, from whom they will be separated by duty.
Americans have few exemplars of mass panic, the worst-case scenario. Most of the prior examples involve serious but geographically bound events. Wide-scale civil disorders and antiwar protests in the late 1960s had specific geographic dimensions and involved only a portion of the populace. Large-scale mass evacuations from hurricane-threatened areas are implemented with several hours' warning and along preplanned, well-publicized routes.
Even the unexpected attacks on the Murrah building in Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center, catastrophic as they were in terms of casualties, remained localized in time and physical dimensions. The longer-term environmental impacts of the collapse of the Twin Towers may have greater ramifications, but they were overwhelmed by the horror of the main incident. Additional lessons may be derived from the Aum Shinriyko cult's attack on the Tokyo subway or the Chernobyl nuclear accident, even though they occurred in foreign countries and have become increasingly distant in time.
None of these predecessor events can provide a reliable road map for an event that instigates mass panic. Americans must travel back to a much different age, Orson Welles' broadcast dramatization of War of the Worlds, to find a real-life event involving open panic. The most vivid portrayal of cataclysmic events is found in motion pictures, and that image is of sheer panic. One of the concerns will be how to avoid modeling fictitious behavior. Preplanning (not seen publicly since the civil defense plans for nuclear attack during the Cold War) will be necessary for both the guides (police, emergency medical services, and other public safety entities) and the guided (the general public).
Ideally, the public's reaction will be more disciplined, along the lines of the evacuation of projected hurricane landfall sites. Even in such a case, provisions should be made in advance and not left to ad hoc solutions. Evacuation will be a natural reaction to any mass-casualty possibility; therefore, preplanning for evacuation; alternative routes in the event of artery-choking accidents or inclement weather conditions; and logistics of communication, shelter, and remobilization of the affected communities will require multiple layers of contingency planning adaptable to multiple scenarios, not just terrorist attacks.
Management Traditional focus on individual officer safety to survive a single encounter proves insufficient in the face of mass attack. The lesson of the World Trade Center attacks is that the entire agency must be prepared. Communications and the ability to work with other agencies responding to the same emergency represent organization-level considerations, as do the procurement of proper equipment, provision of adequate training, and commitment to coordinated preparations.
Police managers also will have to prepare for and cope with officers' very human need to see to the protection of their families and loved ones in case of a general disaster. Creation of a plan-within-a-plan for evacuation of families to a central protected shelter, for instance, may help relieve anxieties and allow officers to focus on larger duty concerns.
In addition, a series of long-term questions about safety must be asked, incorporating not only the demonstrated threats of today but the potential threats on the horizon, such as the impact of nanotechnology, the possible disasters resulting from corruption of the Internet and other cyber attacks, and the remote but possible geological cataclysms similar to the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami. These questions include how the perception of officer safety may change over time. Would law enforcement agencies be satisfied today with 1970s-level training? If not, what training would the profession expect to develop, change, and deliver over the next decade? For patrol officers, what has changed and what will change?
Deeper questions are embedded in the safety issue. Over the next decade, what changes will occur in the jurisdiction of the police? Will the police role become altered? What is the profession developing, products or lifelong learners? Is the patrol officer of tomorrow a combatant; a peace officer; an information warrior; a community builder; or a flexible, agile public servant who needs the attributes of all of those roles? The distinct survival disadvantages of going one-on-one against a terrorist armed with chemical or biological agents should turn the focus back onto prevention, the gathering of intelligence that will prove useful across a broad spectrum of issues affecting the police.
Looking at management itself, what is the proper role of hierarchy? Is it primarily information systems serving the line officer? Or, must it remain an industrial-age artifact of controlling behavior? Is it possible to adapt and do both? What applicant must an agency hire today who can lead it 15 years hence? What will those leaders look like?
Conclusion The future of officer safety in an age of terrorism raises many questions. Some may prove extremely hard to answer. Ultimately, though, the unifying question is, Will we in law enforcement continue to venerate our dysfunctional past, or will we see change as our friend? If crisis does indeed present an opportunity for positive change, the crisis of global terrorism offers us a chance to use an issue of deep emotional significance to all officers, regardless of other interests, to begin to move larger questions forward.