2002, the year in review:
Domestic security demands more of local PDs
Despite a paucity of both funding and guidance from the federal government, local law enforcement has responded with vigor and creativity to the challenge of holding down the domestic front lines against terrorism. In some areas, it was with a neighborhood watch group whose expanded mission includes keeping an eye out for suspicious behavior that suggests terrorists. Other agencies focused on improving computer networks and communication systems. Some grew from being strictly locally-oriented police departments to ones with a decidedly more global view of their role and responsibilities.
In December, a decision was made by the White House to temporarily withhold some $1.5 billion in law enforcement and anti-terrorism assistance allocated by Congress for local police agencies. The funds included money for the Community Oriented Policing Services program and for first responders to terror attacks.
“We’ve got lots of agencies with hiring freezes, and now they’re going to have to look at further budget cuts and layoffs,” said Trina Hembree of the National Emergency Management Association. “I don’t understand how we can keep being told about imminent attacks on the country, but with no funding to increase our preparedness.”
Money for the programs had been built into a stopgap spending measure that would carry the government at 2001’s level until Jan. 11. But that move made it impossible to disperse money to localities when the Justice Department could not plan out its budget, said Assistant Attorney General Deborah J. Daniels in a letter to municipal agencies. The Justice Department will wait until it gets a full appropriation from Congress several months from now.
“At this point we can only speculate on the availability of resources for the balance of the fiscal year,” said Daniels, who is in charge of the Office of Justice Programs.
According to a survey of city officials released in December, one-quarter of municipalities reported having problems meeting their public safety needs while addressing homeland security issues. One-half said they were having more difficulty performing expected public safety roles.
Nearly two-thirds of U.S. cities with populations greater than 100,000 said they had shifted money or personnel to cover municipal needs.
“For 13 months we have been doing these additional duties without any reimbursement or assistance from federal and state officials,” said Michael Guido, the mayor of Dearborn, Mich., and co-chair of a homeland security task force for the National League of Cities.
At the U.S. Conference of Mayors early in the year, the cost of heightened security was estimated at $2.1 billion for 2002. A proposal to provide $3.5 billion in funding to first responders is expected to be considered by Congress again in 2003.
Then there is the issue of direction, as public safety and security directors around the country regularly complained that they were receiving little cooperation from either state or federal authorities.
“The designation as ‘chief state czar for domestic preparedness’ was about as effective as the piece of paper it was written on,” said Juliette Kayyem, executive director of the Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Around the nation, local authorities did what they could to protect their communities and the country from terrorist attacks:
In Pasadena, Calif., the police department created its own threat matrix system to prioritize the continual stream of alerts from federal agencies, with the highest level reserved for those that specifically target Southern California. The system has cut down on overtime spending.
Des Moines police developed an intelligence-sharing system called Cop-Link, which has an artificial intelligence components allowing it to combine data so that municipal and county law enforcement do not have to call each other to find out what information the other might have.
The development of a $74-million National Center for Disaster Decision Making in Portland, Ore., will bring to the state experts in law enforcement, politics, fires services and other areas for advanced simulation and classroom training.
n Stafford County, Va., a Homeland Security Neighborhood Watch was developed to train participants living nearby railroads, airports and other key areas for noting license-plate numbers, directions of travel and descriptions.
A Health Alert Network in Virginia is providing 100-percent coverage to the state’s hospital emergency rooms, state and local health officials and law enforcement, according to a Virginia Health Department report released on Nov. 1 to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The New York City Police Department created two new senior positions in 2002 and filled them with a former CIA spymaster, and a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general. As deputy commissioner for intelligence, David Cohen was charged with placing a new emphasis on investigating terrorism, international crime, drug trafficking and money laundering. Retired general Frank Libutti, the department’s new deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, will oversee specialized training in terrorism response for the force, as well as prevention and investigation. Libutti will also serve as liaison between state and federal agencies.
“The days when you could just focus on crime and quality-of-life violation suppression are over,” said Kelly. “Not that we’re going to back away from that; that’s a core mission of the organization. But now you have this whole other area that has to be focused on. We’re going to be involved in that for a long, long time.”
In addition, the department began assessing the language skills of its personnel, looking for those who could speak Pashtun, Arabic, Fujianese, Urdu and other dialects. The department said it planned to send officers on information-gathering assignments for its Intelligence Division, including travel to the Middle East and Europe, among other regions.
A plan to include the expiration date of immigration visas on driver’s licenses was implemented in July by Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Charlie Weaver after he was given a green light by the state’s chief administrative law judge. Minnesota became one of a number of states to link visas with licenses on the grounds that tens of thousands of immigrants could be using driving permits as proof of identity when they are here illegally.
“There is still some legislation that has been introduced at the federal level that would tie the expiration of a driver’s license to the expiration of someone’s visa document,” Jason King, the executive director of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, told Law Enforcement News. “At the state level, it’s still a very mixed bag.”
The Justice Department in June withdrew its plan to use local law enforcement to enforce immigration law, much to the relief of many of the nation’s chiefs. Beyond the added burden it would put on departments that already have their hands full, such a policy would create a climate of fear, said Sacramento, Calif., Chief Arturo Venegas Jr.
“We’ve spent years building a trustful relationship with our immigrant communities,” echoed Arlington County, Va., Chief Edward Flynn. “It was with great difficulty that we convinced them that we are not just junior immigration officers. We understand things have changed after September 11, but we are not eager to enforce general immigration laws.”