Arresting Tales

September 11 changed the job of policing

Yesterday our honor guard participated in a 9/11 memorial service at the local high school.  The ceremony went smoothly, everyone stayed in step, and I managed to give the commands without my voice breaking, or marching the detail into oncoming traffic.

After the service a few of us stood around talking.  Inevitably a few "where were you when" stories got told, but more of the conversation focused on the weeks and months after 9/11, and on how much the job of policing has changed since then.  As I've said before, the months after 9/11 were the best time in this nation's history to be a police officer, but with all that gratitude and respect came a host of new responsibilities and expectations. 

9/11 (along with incidents such as the Madrid train bombing, London public transit attack and the Mumbai terror attack)  made police departments change our training and tactics.  Patrol officers are encouraged to not only see themselves as crime fighters and ticket writers, but also as a front line of defense against future terror attacks. 

Since 9/11 (and especially since Hurricane Katrina) thousands of police across the country have been trained in the National Incident Management System (NIMS) to make command and control of large-scale incidents more effective.

On a local level, many officers now receive training in "active shooter" response.  Every patrol officer in our department is equipped with a patrol rifle (a variation of the military M-16 or M-4 carbine).  The old paradigm of officers forming a perimeter and waiting for SWAT teams to arrive is a thing of the past--officers are now expected to take action immediately, individually or in small groups, in order to stop the threat.  Firearms training has moved from a static "putting bullet holes in paper targets" model to a more dynamic format that prepares officers to shoot and kill bad guys who may be wearing body armor or suicide vest bombs.

Thousands of officers have attended training sponsored by the Center for Domestic Preparedness in CBRNE awareness and response. CBRNE stands for "Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosive".  I was in the Illinois Army National Guard from 1983 until 1989.  I went through my basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  A couple of years ago I attended one of the CDP's CBRNE classes.  It was a strange and unsettling experience to put on a mask and chemical suit, and then undergo the same type of training as a middle-aged cop that I received as a 21-year-old Army recruit.  It turns out that the treatment for nerve gas exposure--an auto injector of atropine and 2-PAM chloride--is the same now as it was 27 years ago.

Since 9/11, street cops have uncovered complicated schemes to fund terror organizations by smuggling cigarettes, and they've stopped attempted car bombings.  They undergo more training than ever before; they're expected to be more knowledgeable, to be more aware of threats that only the military had to face in the past, and they're expected to respond to those threats as the first line of defense.

And they're still expected to write their tickets, break up your domestic disputes, and listen politely as you complain how your $500 GPS unit was stolen from your unlocked car.

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1 Comment

irishpirate said:

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Joe,

it's not just a job, it's an adventure!

I remember the chemical training in the Army. I felt bad for the soldiers in the Gulf War and Iraq War who had to don the MOPP suits for long periods. 100 degree heat and wearing that stuff.

The "Active Shooter" protocol may be the best thing to have come out of Columbine. I recall watching the incident live on the TEE VEE whilst the local police stayed outside. Then hours later a tubby SWAT team member wearing a black helmet entering the school from a ladder and window.

Drove me nuttier than I usually am.

Then the local Sheriff saying he didn't want to risk his officers lives by entering earlier as justification for waiting.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I'd like to think if that had happened in or near Chicago the response would have been different. Of course in Chicago proper the shooters might have had to take fire from the students and teachers.

There's some interesting commentary here about some of the good and bad things to have come out of the 9/11 attacks.

http://www.theatlantic.com/james-fallows

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