Law Enforcement Partnerships: Terrorism
The tragic events of 9/11, which left thousands of people dead and hundreds more seriously injured, brought to light the high degree of disorganization in the nation’s counterterrorism plan, and the ill-preparedness of our security forces in responding to large-scale disasters. All the same, the attack brought a new dimension to the sphere of American policing. Federal agencies are increasingly appreciating the immense role of local police in terrorism prevention and response. Experience has shown that terrorism does not always have to be a large-scale attack as that witnessed on 9/11; sometimes what appears to be a bomb threat, a local homicide situation, or a gas explosion may actually be instigated by domestic terrorists, and as it turns out, the first responders in such low-magnitude incidents are most assuredly rescue and fire personnel and local police. Whereas the role of the former in both terrorist and regular crime incidents is quite clear, most people still do not quite know how a local law enforcer ought to handle a case of suspected terrorism and whether or not their handling of the same is similar to that of regular cases of crime. This text seeks to outline what the roles of various security agents are in the San Francisco terrorism-response system.
i) The role of the Local Law Enforcer
Like is the case in any other regular criminal case, the local law enforcer has two major roles to play in incidents suspected to have been instigated by terrorists — collecting and preserving valuable information from the incident scene and managing the crime scene to ensure that i) the safety and health of the victims is observed and ii) evidence is not tampered with (Newman & Clarke, 2008). This is of course after notifying the relevant state and federal authorities and other important community actors such as the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) officials that an attack has occurred (Newman & Clarke, 2008). The local officer will be on his/her own for the first few hours following an attack, at least until help arrives from the government (Newman & Clarke, 2008). During this period, they are supposed to treat the scene as a regular crime scene; and their primary and immediate concern is to deal with the death and destruction witnessed at the scene (Newman & Clarke, 2008).
Collecting Relevant Information from the Scene of the Attack: It is not the local officer’s role to pursue the perpetrators of the crime (Newman & Clarke, 2008). This is normally left to the FBI. Being the first persons at the scene of the attack, however, local officers stand better chances of obtaining relevant pieces of valuable information that would perhaps have been corrupted by the time federal and state agents arrive (Newman & Clarke, 2008). The officers should systematically collect information on, among other things, the state of victims, the estimated magnitude of the attack, the type of material and gadgets used in the attack, the possible extent of damage, and the estimated number of casualties. The victims as well as other people present at the scene prior to and during the attack can be a valuable source of such information. This information will often provide a valuable starting point for investigations by federal and state agencies (Newman & Clarke, 2008). In their 2008 report to the executive on the state of the country’s response-to-terrorism system, Newman and Clarke reported that the failure by local law enforcers to collect relevant information within the first hour of the 9/11 attack resulted in rescuers giving faulty evacuation instructions to occupants of the World Trade Center, perhaps resulting in more casualties than would otherwise have been witnessed.
Managing the Scene: the local officer needs to take full control of the scene, and as much as he will be out to “mitigate the harm done to victims at the site,” he should…