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Cover Story

9/11: 10 Years After

The attacks of 9/11 not only changed America, they challenged and changed American law enforcement.

September 01, 2011  |  by - Also by this author


The Power of the States

Perhaps the largest shift in law enforcement culture since 9/11 has been made at the state level. Many post-9/11 initiatives placed additional enforcement responsibilities squarely on the collective shoulders of state law enforcement agencies. Tasked with the protection of state borders, ports of entry, and key transportation corridors, many states have developed specialized services that are often shared with smaller police agencies. It is not uncommon for state SWAT, K-9, aero, and marine units to work alongside municipal and federal agencies in both routine police work and in the prevention of terrorism.

The DHS has called upon individual states to coordinate federal funding to local units, requiring the states to provide additional personnel to jointly participate in a variety of homeland security programs. State agencies often act as liaisons between federal and local departments, particularly in rural areas where other regional resources are not available.

In addition to routine patrol of interstates and highways, state troopers work hand-in-hand with federal and local agencies to identify and report suspicious activities related to homeland security, immigration, and public health.

On the Streets

Along with incidents such as Columbine, 9/11 expedited a radical shift in first responder protocol. No longer would officers necessarily wait for SWAT to deploy before engaging active shooters. The 9/11 attacks demonstrated the need for patrol officers to possess the training and resources required to quickly and effectively respond to terrorist threats.

In addition, potential terrorist targets within local jurisdictions such as ports of entry, key transportation corridors, and nuclear facilities require greater manpower to maintain security. Local law enforcement agencies have had to shift greater numbers of sworn personnel to patrol these areas.

Unfortunately, much of the federal funding for homeland security does not support the hiring of sworn personnel, so local agencies have had to shift personnel from existing programs or hire civilian analysts. This, coupled with the economic downturn, has required agencies to make difficult decisions in paring down some programs in favor of homeland security. Still, public pressure to maintain or even improve routine crime fighting has not wavered. In addition, the pressure on local agencies to maintain individual civil rights has never been higher.

To maximize the effectiveness of their personnel, expertise, and resources, many local agencies have adopted an all-crimes/all-hazards approach to law enforcement. A study by the RAND Corporation concluded that many agencies are shifting priorities away from problem-centric specialized units such as gang or drug details to more collaborative fronts. In this manner, expertise gained by any one unit is shared with a number of local, state, and federal agencies to incorporate homeland security measures into routine crime fighting and reporting.

Bringing federal, state, and local agencies together is not only a top-down proposition. Since 9/11 all levels of law enforcement are more likely to reach out to one another to accomplish their common goals. David Narkevicius of the International Association of Counter-terrorism Security Professionals cites an emergency response agreement between the Navy and local law enforcement agencies as an example of this cooperation. The agencies and the Navy protect a 10-mile swath of land that contains a Navy flight test area, the nation's largest liquid natural gas plant, and a large nuclear plant.

"We train together. We have helicopters that the local county sheriffs can't afford. We can bring those into play very quickly because we have an entire test squadron of helicopters at the base. We can transport local SWAT teams to the nuclear plant or just about anywhere," Narkevicius says.

Intelligence Sharing

Albert Einstein is famously quoted as saying, "Information is not knowledge." In the world of law enforcement, however, lack of information can be dangerous. After 9/11, the CIA and FBI responded to criticisms about their lack of security intelligence sharing. The federal government's response to such criticisms has been the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

Implemented in 2004, NIMS provides information from law enforcement agencies at all levels regarding incidents that may affect national security or emergency management, regardless of size, location, or complexity. Departments that receive certain types of federal funding are required to implement extensive training for all department personnel in order to receive NIMS certification.

Comments (4)

Displaying 1 - 4 of 4

Jonathan Cherney @ 9/11/2011 6:41 AM

Excellent story. We must remember that our law enforcement are the "sheep dogs" of society and must operate in a manner that may occassionally offend or inconvienence the public. We have spent way too much time in law enforcement attempting to "soften" the publics opinion of us, which in many cases has decreased our ability to respond effectively our of fear that law enforcement will be deemed "too aggressive". Every large gathering of citizens is a potential target for terrorism and law enforcement should always have the equipement and manpower to deter such attacks. I would feel much more secure to see an officer armed to the gills patroling our airports, malls, sporting events, etc..., then the alternative of see no evil, hear no evil.

Jim Freeman @ 9/11/2011 10:27 AM

Since When Did First Responders Become the Bad Guys?
Jim Freeman, Freeman Public Affairs

Ten years ago on September 11, first responders were our national heroes. They rushed into New York’s burning towers and the nation’s nerve center for military defense. They saved lives without concern for their own and they suffered terrible losses. They brought order to chaos and let us know that someone had our backs, even in the worst of times.

Since that horrific day, many of our country’s first responders have served with the National Guard in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have protected us against domestic attacks from foreign and homegrown terrorists. They continuously put their lives on the line for natural disasters, and on a daily basis, they face flames and bullets, arrest thugs, rescue fire victims, save lives in ambulances, find lost children and keep us safe.

More than ever after 9/11, support from police and fire was sought by every politician even thinking of running for office. No more. Not now. Our first responders are being blamed by extremists for everything from the political mismanagement of cities to budget deficits nationwide. It doesn’t matter that police and fire protected us during good times, paying into their own pensions, keeping cities and states flush with these retirement funds. It’s of no consequence that since the recession, they’ve made concession after concession in the spirit of shared sacrifice. These facts have all been lost amid threats to their very existence. Who needs community police and fire when we can privatize and outsource, when we can make numbers look better on a balance sheet and reward political contributors? Emergency dispatchers from India and mercenaries from Blackwater could do the same job more efficiently and surely for less.

AusFost1 @ 9/11/2011 5:35 PM

Thoughts are with you, USA, on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. It's humbling to watch your nation come closer together than ever before on this day. And comforting to think of those perpetrators burning in hell for a full ten years so far.

Rick @ 9/12/2011 9:13 AM

It's shameful that the Flt. 93 memorial was designed to be a crescent and has other muslim designs incorporated into it; the crescent even points towards Mecca. I remember the controversey surrounding the OK City Bombing and how there was a third conspirator, a middle eastern looking man, that was never brought to justice. I recently visited the OKC memorial and when I got home, I looked at it on Google Earth. There is a crescent there surrounding the Survivor's Tree that points towards Mecca. Coincidence??

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