Hometown Security Is Homeland Security


 
 

Mannie Garza | | Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Nation needs new security strategy based on first responder expertise

According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the billions of federal dollars appropriated to help the United States prevent, respond to and recover from terrorist attacks have failed to significantly improve the nation's readiness. IACP faults federal officials for ignoring advice from state and local first response organizations.

An IACP report released in May,From Hometown Security to Homeland Security: IACP's Principles for a Locally Designed and Nationally Coordinated Homeland Security Strategy, states, "Our nation's current homeland security strategy is handicapped by a fundamental flaw: It was developed without sufficiently seeking or incorporating the advice, expertise or consent of public safety organizations at the state, tribal or local level."

Because of this flaw, IACP insists that a need exists for a new homeland security strategy, one "that fully embraces the valuable and central role that must be played by the state, tribal or local public safety community." The report then details five principles that must form the foundation of that new strategy:

  • All terrorism is local. "Local, not federal, authorities have the primary responsibility for preventing, responding to and recovering from terrorist attacks."
  • Prevention is paramount. "For too long, federal strategies have minimized the importance of prevention, instead focusing on response and recovery."
  • Hometown security is homeland security. Because of their day-to-day work, "state and local law enforcement officers are uniquely situated to identify, investigate and apprehend suspected terrorists."
  • Homeland security strategies must be coordinated nationally, not federally. Federal agencies have too often limited state, tribal and local public-safety community input "to participation in advisory panels and working groups that have little impact on policy development." A truly national effort would ensure that all levels of government-local, tribal, state and federal-participate in policy design and development "as full and equal partners."
  • Bottom-up engineering, public-safety diversity and noncompetitive collaboration are key. "A truly successful national strategy must recognize, embrace and value the vast diversity among state and local law enforcement and public safety agencies. A one-size-fits-all approach will fail to secure our homeland."

According to IACP President Joseph G. Estey, Hartford Police Department, White River Junction, Vt., the report came from discussions among IACP leaders who met as part of the IACP "Taking Command Initiative," a project to assess the nation's homeland security efforts and to develop and implement action steps to better protect U.S. communities from both crime and terrorism.

"A strong consensus emerged that federally led efforts, while well-intentioned, have not led to a cohesive strategy to allow state, tribal and local public safety officials to protect their communities successfully," he says, noting that the representatives of the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration were part of those discussions.

Before releasing the report, Estey and other IACP officers met with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to brief him on the project. "We also reached out to the Department of Justice and the FBI to say that this is not a complaint; this is the reality of how police chiefs and other law enforcement officers feel across the country," Estey says.

IACP also sent copies of the report to members of Congress, and it already has affected one bill, the Homeland Security Grant Enhancement Act of 2005 (S. 21). "The bill's sponsors, Senators Collins and Lieberman, decided to bump up the amount of money available for prevention, to make that a minimum of 25% of state and local homeland security grants," says IACP spokesman Gene Voegtlin. "Previously 25% was the maximum, so this makes 25% a floor not a ceiling, which is a significant achievement for us."

According to Estey, IACP hopes to enlist the fire, EMS and emergency management communities in identifying, discussing and solving the issues mentioned in the report. "We've been pleased to find a lot of agreement with the ideas we raised," Estey says. "This cuts across all disciplines."

Download the eight-page IACP report atwww.theiacp.org/leg_policy/HomelandSecurityWP.pdf




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