The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security
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Terrorism Prevention and Training Within State, Local, and Tribal Law Enforcement Agencies

State, local, and tribal (SLT) law enforcement agenciesThe events on 9/11 brought drastic change to the United States in numerous ways. Today, Americans look towards law enforcement agencies now, more than ever, for a feeling of safety. Knowing that the FBI agency has been trained in counterterrorism, the question lies as to how our state, local, and tribal (SLT) law enforcement agencies are making the necessary post-9/11 changes. A study done by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism (START) project evaluates the intelligence practices of SLT law enforcement officials and how it can lead to an enhancement of public safety.

The report released last month, "Understanding Law Enforcement Intelligence Processes: Report to the Office of University Programs, Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security", answers some of the important questions addressing the issues of SLT intelligence practices.

"Little information is known about perceptions of how information is being shared between agencies and whether technologies have improved or hurt information sharing, and little is known about whether agencies think they are currently prepared for a terrorist attack, and the key factors distinguishing those that think they are compared to those who do not."

In order to better understand how terrorism prevention is being handled within SLT agencies, the study evaluated two different law enforcement groups with a 48 structured, semi-structured, or open-ended question survey.

"The survey, despite its length, enabled respondents to share information about issues such as perceptions of terrorist threats, inter-agency interactions, information sharing, intelligence training, and agency preparedness."

START provides compelling findings which include: "…law enforcement perceptions about what is a serious threat in their community", "…examining whether the respondents thought that various agencies and sources were useful in their counterterrorism efforts", and how "…several factors impacted whether an agency was prepared for a terrorist attack." At the end of the study, the START team found that "…law enforcement’s expanded role in counterterrorism, and the acknowledgement that local intelligence is critical to the prevention and deterrence of terrorist acts."

Terrorism Prevention

Interestingly, the report highlights insight on how law enforcement officials perceive terrorist threats. In a change from the 2006-07 survey, "The 2013-14 study results show that law enforcement’s top concern is sovereign citizens. Although Islamic extremists remain a major concern for law enforcement, they are no longer their top concern."