Security Studies Program Seminar
Chief of Police, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
(former Chief Advisor to Mass. Governor on Homeland Security and Secretary of Public Safety in Massachusetts)
April 30, 2008
- Premise: We have a federal strategy for the war on terror, but not a national strategy, and the distinction is not merely semantic.
- Lesson #1: It's up to local government. Although terrorists may think globally, when they act, they act locally. In the U.S., that means the smallest unit of government will be first responder and incident commander in the event of an attack.
- On 9/11, Flynn was police chief in Arlington , Va., coordinating a half-dozen jurisdictions in the DC area. Lucky to have a large number of officers and an area that was seen as ground zero through Cold War -- civil defense mentality is a long-standing communal practice in that area. Local fire departments frequently coordinated and drilled together before 9/11, etc.
- Lesson #2: No agency in the U.S. can handle an event of that magnitude alone. Mutual aid and collaboration are crucial.
- Lesson #3: You play like you practice. DC-area had extensive mutual aid practice/drills; just two weeks before 9/11 they had practiced incident command. Allowed them to contain the area rather quickly. (Still, not problem-free: when the command vehicle rolled up on the scene, they found they had no markers for the whiteboard.)
- Lesson #4: Absolutely everything emergency responders were doing on 9/11 was consistent with normal, core mission of police/fire. It was an international terrorist attack, but for local police it was a plane crash, a building collapse, and a fire. Required fire control, crowd control, perimeter control, access control, traffic control, processing crime scene, etc. Even used recent Marine Corps Marathon plan to seal off area around Pentagon. First response is part of the core mission of emergency services; and first prevention is as well, but that has been more missed over the past seven years.
- The world doesn't stop while you're having a crisis. Two unrelated fatal car accidents during the 9/11 response period which required full investigation—managing three incidents at once.
- During evidence collection and processing, they learned that part of the Pentagon struck by the plane was the strongest part of the building (had just been renovated, and wasn't fully inhabited); many windows didn't break (blast resistant). If the plane had hit on the Potomac side, would have killed Joint Chiefs and caused much more damage.
- Conversations with other PDs have confirmed that investigating conventional crimes — identity theft, credit card theft, etc. — will periodically lead people into terror networks. Organized crime and counterfeit goods often used to fund terrorism.
- Terrorists are not just acting locally, but they live locally. For the last 10-15 years, American policing had been closely tied to community policing. War on terrorism is an unhelpful metaphor because it doesn't lend itself to a strategy that gets us towards the threat. We are not at war with the IRA, the PLO, Hamas, the Tamil Tigers, etc.—a wide variety of people who use terrorist means to advance their interests. We know what slice we're interested in for our foreign policy (Iraq, Afghanistan), but we're less clear on what it means for domestic policy. Focus needs to be on community policing, especially in new ethnic communities; building trust when police are often seen initially in negative light. Create an environment in which they want to report crimes or worrisome information.
- Post 9/11, excessive focus on security clearances, as opposed to declassifying information, which would have helped prevent crimes. Trying to do background investigations on police chiefs rather than spreading information. Information on changing threat environment, etc. ought to be spread — declassify information rather than classify people.
- Massachusetts homeland security: Gov. Romney let him choose his own staff for homeland security in Mass. —chose all career people. Congress illogically mandated spending $32 million within 45 days on equipment, and then initiate a planning process. To spend that quickly, created an online application that declined to spend standalone municipalities; required multiple community partners where there are mutual-aid agreements. Funded 16 seat-of-the-pants regional collectives, covering 75% of Mass. population. Our subsequently developed state-wide plan funded 5 regions (including the Boston UASI) according to a carefully developed "threat, vulnerability and risk" assessment that made sure our money was spent appropriately and regionally. The "seat of pants" funding was just for the first iteration of federal money that came to us within a month of assuming office. We subsequently developed a more sophisticated plan and process.
- Maps: department of public health, emergency management agency, fire services, etc. all had different maps of Massachusetts. Idea of taking all state maps and turning them into one official map with regions. Attractiveness as targets of terror is not equal; symbolic/telegenic targets do have great meaning. That became a factor in funding.
- Interoperable capacity needed in areas that are likely to interact with each other. Don't spend money on areas that aren't likely to have to talk to each other.
- Processing of locally generated information to look for patterns and trend. Stop worrying about what federal partners were/weren't telling each other, but what we were finding out ourselves and could we ascertain meaning from those random events (be they cigarette smuggling rings or people videotaping at airports)? Who needed to know what we knew? Most patterns are just about regular crime, but occasionally might be more nefarious.
- How, in a decentralized country, do you create a national security strategy that preserves the nation's core values (including individual rights) while protecting infrastructure. We have 17,000 law-enforcement jurisdictions; we're not going to have a single federal entity (or a few regional entities like in Britain). How do we make a virtue of necessity? Local jurisdictions need to learn to do it on their own, with regional partners. We have a federal, not national strategy.
- DHS is made up of 22 agencies with widely different missions and 18 congressional oversight agencies. It has mandated training on incident response that takes too long and is essentially a vocabulary test. They're not valueless, but if you focus on the 17,000 jurisdictions as incident-response, you lose key opportunities for prevention. The local officers are in the neighborhoods every day, and they're only being given guidance on what to do when it's gone wrong. Prior to 9/11, government was supporting community policing; within a year of 9/11, homeland security became the monster that ate criminal justice. Money has been disappearing from DOJ to fund DHS (and now from DHS to DOD), and nobody's doing serious community policing training.
- Moving beyond whining: many local agencies have begun focusing on what they can do themselves. I-95 corridor group—every major city down to Miami —working together/exchanging information. Similar effort in Great Lakes area and on I-10/West Coast. Local and state government is beginning to step into the breach itself to provide leadership. Obligation to inform federal partners but may not be able to count on them. Some national conversations haven't occurred: what level of vulnerability are we able to accept while maintaining national character? Who is our role model?
• Isn't it better for decisions about funding to be made locally, where the information is most available? The truth is somewhere in between; can't have hundreds of separate security strategies for Massachusetts, and it makes sense to have some basic sense of the state-wide strategy to which funding is tied. Someone's got to coordinate it: feds are too far away and too big, while states are more appropriate. Some localities don't trust the state, but states need viable security strategies. Otherwise everyone buys shiny toys without a strategy.
• MBTA/subway safety anecdotes? MBTA spent a lot of money on communication system that didn't have interoperability, which was crucial since mass-transit is a key target (London, Spain). Had to spend a lot of money working on the tunnels since that's the key vulnerability. Private sector often overcharges/rips off government because they outthink the gov't.
• Is there a workable state and federal partnership? Lots of individual task forces do work/share crucial information. FBI is trying to become an intelligence rather than crime-fighting organization and that's posing lots of difficulties. Classification of information at the federal level is a huge problem for local authorities (took a year to get security clearance when he ran homeland security for Mass., and had to redo it when he went to be a police chief elsewhere).
• Model in public health system? Woefully underfunded but may be the best of both worlds. There are shared conceptions of what the threat is, what the symptoms are, how to report your observations and see if they connect up with others, central repository of the information, trip-wires, etc. There's nothing like that in homeland security because the turf battles are so stunning.
• Preventive side of things? A tough part is getting out of habit of doing investigation leading to arrest and into habit of doing investigation leading to information/surveillance (hard for FBI and for local police); everyone instinctively wants to make cases rather than find the maximum possible amount of information.
• Attackers from elsewhere, so how much does local policing matter? True that they developed elsewhere, but they did have to live here for a while, develop domestic identities, etc.; they came to some people's attention and local law enforcement needs to realize that profiling is not a dirty word (when it's about behavior and threat). (Also, the fact that first wave of attackers was here only briefly doesn't mean future attackers won't be here for longer.)
• New York's random police exercises: training or deterrent purposes—do they work? Doesn't require a lot to cause a lot of damage—two people in DC during sniper crisis essentially shut down the city for two weeks. So any little thing that might help is worthwhile.
Rapporteur: Jacob Hale Russell
back to Wednesday Seminars, Spring 2008