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Terrorism and Law Enforcement Essay


We live in a new world; it is a world where there is the ever growing threat of terrorism. As a result law enforcement has had to change the way it does things in order to respond to the terrorist threat. How has law enforcement evolved in order to respond to the ever changing nature of terrorism as well as maintain the same level of protecting and serving the citizens of The United States. It is important that law enforcement continue to work on strategies and strengthen capabilities as well as maintain working relationships with the local communities they are sworn to serve. In order to do this law enforcement need to understand the changing nature or terrorism and the threats it poses and treat each threat as a crime. Prior to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Americans felt as if they were safe from the violence seen on its televisions nightly, but that soon would change. The events of that day would change policing as we know it at the local, state and federal level. It helped to create new tactics and standards for law enforcement to follow in order to prevent future terrorist attacks.

One major tactic that has been implemented through all levels of government is the process of information sharing. Prior to 9/11 many departments from the lowest local police department all the way up through the chain of federal agencies to include the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Central Intelligence Agency kept vital information to themselves. It became apparent that law enforcement agencies needed to improve their communication skills to prevent future attacks from happening within the United States and to our nations interests abroad. Law enforcement at the federal level “has never fully developed a strong intelligence analysis capacity dealing with the counterterrorism arena” (Robert, R, Novak, K, Cordner, G & Smith, B,)

This lack of [1: Roberg, R., Novak, K. Cordner, G., & Smith, B., 2012, p. 510-11, “Police & Society”, February, 11, 2011.] information sharing forced then President George W. Bush to form the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who was now charged with cultivating and implementing plans to help regulate and prepare law enforcement with the task of avoiding possible threats to our nation. The new strategy implemented by the Department of Homeland Security gives local law enforcement directives to establish stronger personnel relationships with existing departments of law enforcement at the federal level to facilitate with improved information sharing.

After 9/11, many of the federal and state agencies already in place were restructured in order to better meet the needs of the DHS. A result of this intelligence led policing was developed in order to confront any issues and is a method that is intended to recognize the dangers that terrorism poses as well as a means to produce more effective strategies in order to remove any threats. Local law enforcement agencies account for only about 10 percent of the total police force in the United States and this small amount of law enforcement officers play a small role in America’s overall protection. But as we saw during the events on September 11, 2001 these[2: Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Law Enforcement Statistics,” (28 February 2005).] small police forces were thrust into a much bigger role regarding the national threat from terrorism. State law enforcement was in for a big change when it came to battling terrorism, but the federal government was also in for some rather big changes of its own. With the creation of The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as well as other government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) began to shift their security priorities.

At all levels of the nations law enforcement the focus became the prevention of future attacks and should one happen again the quick response to help those in need. But with this shift in focus many questions were raised such as how would the traditional crimes the law enforcement dealt with prior to September 11, 2001 be addressed. Prior to the events of 9/11 the Federal Bureau of Investigations focused its vast resources at combating crimes such as drug trafficking, bank robberies, financial crimes and organized crime. But with the focus quickly changing to terrorism this left local law enforcement more involved in fighting these crimes some of which they were unequipped to perform. Another important factor that was was not thought of immediately after the attacks but became a problem for local law enforcement for the next 10 plus years was that many officers were actively serving in the Reserves or State National Guard and would be gone on deployments often times for a year at a time and sometimes multiple times which placed huge strains on already undermanned states. But how is this new threat and the creation of the DHS affecting state police functions in today’s society? Many of the new requirements placed upon local agencies have had profound effects on state agencies.

More than half of all states agree that officers as well as investigators have had new requirements placed upon them such as terrorism-related intelligence gathering, investigations involving potential terrorism and emergency response. Since 9/11 law enforcement agencies have allocated millions of dollars and hundreds of hours to resources such as border security and port security and many agencies have moved to a more high tech type approach to detect and/or prevent future terrorist attacks. Smaller local police agencies have allocated more towards local airport security and drug enforcement as well as community policing and the more traditional form of criminal investigations. Many states have also resourced out personnel to assist in the governments Joint Terrorism Task Force (of which there are roughly 66 nationwide) as well as becoming more involved with immigration involved investigations. One way states are gathering more intelligence is by the use of what is called “fusion centers”. “Fusion centers are an integral part of a states strategy regarding the prevention of terrorism,” said Lt.Col. Bart Johnson of New York State Police. [3: The Council of State Governments and Eastern Kentucky University, National Study-TheImpact of Terrorism on State Law Enforcement, 2004 (Through support from the NationalInstitute of Justice). .]

These fusion centers help states by allowing intelligence sharing at the state level and helps in information gathering at one central location within the state. The centers house local, state and federal personal whose job it is to collect, analyze information for the sole purpose of terrorism prevention. Some states have placed their fusion centers with the Federal Bureau of Investigations Joint Terrorism Task Force located within the state. The Nation Guard, the state Department of Transportation and state Corrections as well as Drug Enforcement Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and Department of Defense to name just a few also have personal located at the state fusion centers. Some challenges facing the fusion centers are funding, security classification among agencies and the need to incorporate intelligence analysts. Local law enforcement agencies are being faced with ever increasing needs for intelligence analysts and investigators who can gather information and turn it into useable information. A survey of all 50 states found that 92 percent of state law enforcement agencies have allocated a larger number of resources into intelligence gathering.

How are states coping with the need for these analytical needs? Many states are hiring analysts such as New York and Florida who have hired more than 60 between the two states. But many states are dealing with how to fund the new positions and with the lack of qualified analysts. Many of the current experienced analysts are being recruited by federal agencies such as the FBI and CIA making it difficult for states who need to meet the same requirements. With an ever increasing threat from global criminal networks local law enforcement face complex security threats. Many of today’s criminals and criminal organizations have adapted their way of thinking and have grown more sophisticated and are more transnational than ever before. As a result of this new threat local law enforcement agencies have had to reinforce old skills like investigation and also acquire new information and a new understanding of terrorist organizations. In order for local police officers to meet the challenges posed by terrorism they must incorporate the time tested method of prevention with a new focus on prediction.

Local law enforcement must believe that an terrorist attack that takes place in a remote location of the world could have a global impact and possibly be repeated in a local community. An example is the beheading of a number of American and British citizens by ISIS in the Middle East. A ISIS sympathizer committed the same crime in the United States when he beheaded a coworker. With the ever changing geopolitical landscape there is a need to appreciate international perspectives. The World Bank has estimated that there were 17 poorly governed or fragile states in 2006 and more than 26 by 2007. [4: Karen DeYoung, “World Bank Lists Failing Nations That Can Breed Global Terrorism,” Washington Post, September 15, 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/14/AR2006091401859.html (accessed December 23, 2008).]

This is very important as a failed or poorly governed state can become a breeding ground for future terrorist organizations. These terrorist organizations have become more resourceful and have become transnational reaching all parts of the globe. Between 1981 and 2000 there were seven countries that had suicide attacks take place. By 2001 that number had tripled and by September 2001 America was on that list. Local law enforcement face a very unfamiliar [5: Louise Richardson, What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat (New York: Random House, 2006).] enemy as terrorists can be homegrown who are inspired by foreign terrorist organizations as well as those who seek to raise money to fund operations here or overseas.

Local police have shown that they can quickly adapt to changes in their communities and they are more aware of any subtle changes within their communities that my trigger warning signs. Because of these strengths local law enforcement have played a significant role in the prevention of further terrorist attacks following the attacks of 9/11. Prior to the attacks of 9/11 police agencies were unlikely to share information with other agencies be it state or federal and this led to key intelligence failures. With the forming of the Department of Homeland Security and the passing of The Patriot Act, information sharing among agencies have greatly improved with local and state governments passing information to federal agencies and vice versa.

One such case involving local and federal agencies working together was the Los Angeles Police Department working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI to arrest a major terrorist funding group that was raising money to fund the terror group Hezbollah. The group was selling drugs and then laundered the profits by selling counterfeit cigarettes and clothes inside Latin America and the United States. Local law enforcement have made great strides in being able to adapt to the ever changing world as it pertains to terrorism. Local law enforcement cannot become complacent as terrorist organizations implement asymmetric warfare tactics to create a much larger footprint within the United States.

Law enforcement have had a constant struggle trying to maintain the safety of its citizens following the attacks on 9/11. Community policing has helped law enforcement and citizens work together to prevent further terrorist attacks in the United States. Law enforcement is not always capable of neither handling nor are they always prepared to deal with a terrorist attacks which is why it’s so important that the community and law enforcement support each other and share resources to meet future needs in the event of another attack. According to the FBI “many city administrators and elected officials are seeking ways to increase community involvement in local government matters in a more systematic way those results in a more transparent government structure that stresses accountability and responsiveness to the community.”[6: www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/march-2010/bulletin-reports] The FBI as well as state and local police agencies have been working on stressing the importance of the community’s assistance as a valuable tool in preventing terrorist attacks and if an attack occurs they can help law enforcement find those responsible.

With the use of community policing, law enforcement will be able to overcome many obstacles that may hinder them in their ongoing work to detect, stop and respond to future terrorist attacks. But in order for community policing to work in order to help prevent or stop an future or potential terrorist attack it should be reflected through the department organization’ mission, goals, objectives, performance evaluations, hiring and promotion practices, training, and all other systems that define organizational culture and activities (Miller, Hess, and Orthman, 2010). [7: The Policing of terrorism: organizational and global perspective, first edition. University of Maryland: Routledge. Miller, L., Hess, K., and Orthmann, C. (2010)] But in order for community policing to work in order to help prevent or stop an future or potential terrorist attack it should be reflected through the department organization’ mission, goals, objectives, performance evaluations, hiring and promotion practices, training, and all other systems that define organizational culture and activities. The most important aspect in regards is a more compressed structure within an organization. Within police departments this may mean “Fewer lieutenants and captains, fewer staff departments and fewer staff assistants but more sergeants and more patrol officers,” (Miller, Hess, and Orthman, 2010).

Another key element to change inside an organization would be to [8: The Policing of terrorism: organizational and global perspective, first edition. University of Maryland: Routledge. Miller, L., Hess, K., and Orthmann, C. (2010)] have a fixed geographic area of responsibility. Many departments can assign officers based on considerations which can be social and cultural in nature and this in hopes that they will better communicate with local residents this will help to increase the ability of patrol officers to better understand and respond to the needs of the community. This type of organizational layout may also help to be more effective in preventing terrorist attacks and also in responding should one occur. In the years following the attacks on 9/11 it has been shown that local law enforcement officers are often times the ones most likely to come in contact with individuals who may be involved in terrorist activities and often times are also the first responders to these attacks when they happen. Allowing these officers to exercise the authority of decision making and making them familiar with and allowing them to take responsibility for the important decisions that are often times valuable in the event of a crisis.

When a terrorist attack occurs there is very little time for decisions to move up the chain of command in the moments following an attack. This way officers would be more empowered to making decisions and retaining authority so they may be better prepared to respond more quickly and with more certainty in the event something does happen. It would also give lower level officers more flexibility to pursue leads on those involved in terrorist activities. Officers who are assigned to fixed geographic areas would be better able to help identify possible threats with the help of the community as the street level knowledge is a vital part of any counter intelligence effort.

Departments that participate in community policing can help to prevent any number of future problems by helping to identify and analyzing problems. Local law enforcement is better at using the resources at their disposal to evaluate problems by working closely with the community and other organizations in order to develop more lasting solutions. “Problem solving often manifests itself in the scanning, analysis, response and assessment, ” [9: The Policing of terrorism: organizational and global perspective, first edition. University of Maryland: Routledge. Miller, L., Hess, K., and Orthmann, C. (2010)]

Officers first must identify any recurring or relevant problems and to determine causes of the particular problems. Once they do this than they can come up with solutions and apply those solutions and finally they can evaluate the outcome and effectiveness of the chosen solution. Now more than ever police departments are uniting with communities and government agencies to come up with solutions to combat threats of terrorism. The goal of this community policing is to develop partnerships and develop crisis plans for the aftermath of terrorist attacks. Immediately following the attacks of 9/11 law enforcement agencies all the way down to the local level took it upon themselves to respond to disasters and to provide greater security to the public and strived to work with federal intelligence agencies to help them investigate crimes within their communities which reduced crime. By working together with the community and other government agencies, the local police departments can plan ahead for preventing a crisis or to cope with a crisis’ aftermath. Before, the local police were only the crime fighters of the nation; but now they the most important tool the nation has in preventing and dealing with terrorism.

Terrorists groups are constantly recruiting new members and this has become easier due to the ever changing possibilities of the internet and cyberspace. This changing threat has required the Federal Government and local law enforcement to change their attitudes and approaches in dealing with fighting crime and the terrorist threat. Since 11 September 2001 there have been more than 39 terrorist threats that have targeted the United States. Targets have included transportation systems of New York and Washington D.C. to name just a few, luckily the plots were all foiled. Most of the plots involved lone wolf terrorists and because of this the need for state and local law enforcement agencies to partner up with federal authorities has never been greater. Lone wolf plots are much smaller and therefore much more difficult for federal agencies to detect. The United States has developed a vigorous intelligence infrastructure that has combined the analytical capacity of the federal government and the knowledge at the local level in order to be better prepared for the terrorist threats in the 21st century.

Local law enforcement does not need to sacrifice the traditional crime fighting they are known for to deal with terrorism. Intelligence led policing has relied upon “a business model and managerial philosophy where data analysis and crime intelligence are pivotal to an objective, decision making framework that facilitates crime and problem reduction.” [10: Jerry Ratcliffe, Intelligence-Led Policing (Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing, 2008).] Law enforcement at the state and local level has become incredibly more complex and much more demanding in the past 13 years. State police organizations have taken the lead as it pertains to the role of terrorism. They state troopers for instance are the eyes and ears and are often times the first to respond to suspicious activities and play key role in managing a potential disaster. State agencies are also being asked to fill in where vacancies appear in the shifting priorities of federal law enforcement agencies.


1. Roberg, R., Novak, K. Cordner, G., & Smith, B., 2012, p. 510-11, “Police & Society”, February, 11, 2011. 2. Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Law Enforcement Statistics,” (28 February 2005). 3. The Council of State Governments and Eastern Kentucky University, National Study-The Impact of Terrorism on State Law Enforcement, 2004 (Through support from the National Institute of Justice). . 4. Karen DeYoung, “World Bank Lists Failing Nations That Can Breed Global Terrorism,” _Washington Post_, September 15, 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/14/AR20060914018 59.html (accessed December 23, 2008). 5. Louise Richardson, _What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat_ (New York: Random House, 2006). 6. www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/march-2010/bulletin-reports 7. The Policing of terrorism: organizational and global perspective, first edition. University of Maryland: Routledge. Miller, L., Hess, K., and Orthmann, C. (2010). 8. Jerry Ratcliffe, _Intelligence-Led Policing_ (Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing, 2008). 9. http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/march-2010/bulletin-reports (page 7) 10.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, _The 9/11 Commission Report_, (New York:W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2004),

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