FBI still not reaching out to local law enforcement, police expert says

Local law enforcement agencies still aren't getting enough information from the FBI to respond effectively to security threats, according to the head of the country's largest organization of police executives.

Despite a new color-coded terrorism alert system and FBI Director Robert Mueller's expressed commitment to better coordinate with local law enforcement agencies, police still aren't getting information specific enough to help them identify terrorist risks in their communities, said Bill Berger, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and police chief of North Miami Beach, Fla. On Sept. 10, when the Justice Department raised the threat level of possible terrorist attacks from "elevated" to "high," many local police didn't learn of the change until it was announced to the public, Berger said.

"It didn't work again," Berger said, adding that the level of information from the FBI varied by region. Most local police in New England were informed by the FBI office in that area of the elevated threat level about an hour before the public, but police in other regions didn't know about the change until Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge announced it at a press conference, Berger said.

"Baltimore had a 45-minute notice, Florida was [officially] notified an hour and a half afterwards, and California was notified several hours afterwards…the system still has flaws; it's something we have to work on," Berger said.

Ridge introduced the color-coded national alert system in March to help government and law enforcement officials gauge security threats and allocate their resources appropriately. The security level was introduced at the yellow, "elevated" risk level, and remained unchanged until Sept. 10, when it was raised to the orange, "high" risk level. The government had issued four warnings about terrorist attacks prior to the system's introduction, but police complained that those warnings were too general and drained their resources because they didn't know where to focus their efforts.

An orange alert directs the federal government to "coordinate necessary security efforts with armed forces or law enforcement agencies," according to the White House Web site. But Berger said that coordination never took place on Sept. 10, despite the creation last December of an Office of Law Enforcement Coordination in FBI headquarters which serves as the main point of contact for many organizations, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Berger acknowledged that the FBI's warnings have become more specific since the new alert system took effect, but coordination among federal and local law enforcement agencies still needs improvement, he said. Better coordination and information sharing rests primarily with the FBI's regional offices, he added, and some-such as the New England office-have been more responsive than others.

"What I hear from New England [police chiefs] is they have so much information they are ready to throw much of it out. The problem is the rest of the country," Berger said. FBI regional offices in the rest of the country haven't improved their information-sharing practices that much since the terrorist attacks, according to Berger.

The FBI and the Office of Homeland Security did not return phone calls for this story.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.