On September 11, 2001, more than 3,000 people lost their lives as a result of the acts of terrorism on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93. It was then that we as Americans began to witness the birth of a terrorism that no longer seemed to occur in some distant land. On that day, terror was brought to our doorstep, and it was very real.
The terrorists who did this had hoped to cause fear and panic and cripple our country. Instead, they were shown the strength and compassion that make our country great. Amid the attack, over 25,000 people were saved as a result of the heroic actions of those entrusted to maintain our public safety.
Our country had been shaken to its core. You see, terrorists use fear to intimidate, manipulate and dominate others. They cannot wage battle as a formidable military; instead, they rely on fear to impact and change our lives. The feeling of many first responders and the community was one of resolve: resolve to help each other and to remain strong. However, we wondered after the attacks, was anyone safe?
Many news reports spoke of the fear experienced in our communities. Citizens immediately changed their routines and anxiety was high. Fear was winning the day. Fear, if left unchecked, can paralyze us. Fear, if allowed to grow, can weaken us. But in the absence of fear, terrorism has no power. As citizens of this great country, we cannot walk in fear!
So how do we accomplish this? What have we learned since September 11? The answer is we must be united and we must not be afraid. We must be united as a community and we must be united as a country. If we do this, terrorism will never win. Law enforcement agencies must work closely with their communities, together, with a common goal to make our communities great places to live, work and raise our families. We must develop long-lasting relationships that ensure effective communication, share resources and work together to prevent crime and terrorism before they happen. Partnerships cannot be the result of a program; they must become the culture.
Since September 11, leaders in the law enforcement community have been very intentional in coordinating with other law enforcement agencies. That coordination has improved prevention efforts and response, but also, in the long run, alleviated the individual burden on agencies because the collective is greater than the sum of its parts. No agency can respond to a major terrorist attack alone. We recognize that we are more effective when we work together across disciplines and jurisdictions as a team.
“We must develop long-lasting relationships that ensure effective communication, share resources and work together to prevent crime and terrorism before they happen”
Since September 11, we have seen the development of the Department of Homeland Security, a federal agency created to secure the nation from the many threats we face. Many metropolitan areas began to see the implementation of FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs), which included local, state and federal partners. Each state established intelligence fusion centers designed to centralize information from federal, state and local agencies in an effort to increase awareness of potential threats and facilitate peer partnerships. Our agency in Hanover County, Virginia, plugged into these resources, assigning personnel to work on staff with the Richmond JTTF and Virginia State Police Fusion Center. We connected to more than 60 fusion centers across the country and increased our ability to better receive and understand needed intelligence. We then connected with our partners at the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and helped develop the Global SHIELD Network.
The Global SHIELD Network initiative is another way for us to be prepared and informed and was born out of the 9/11 attacks. SHIELD is designed to reduce anxiety and fear through strong partnerships and increased communication within our communities. SHIELD increases opportunities for our private-sector partners to easily share potential crime or suspicious information with their law enforcement agency. It also increases their awareness of crime trends that cross jurisdictional boundaries and the current condition of terrorism abroad.
Law enforcement agencies that are connected with the Global SHIELD Network share information with their private-sector partners in order to provide shared messaging when needed. This results in increased community partnerships and real-time awareness of those best practices designed to prevent crime and help keep our community safe. Law enforcement agencies connect directly with one another and are able to seamlessly share needed information. This partnership with our communities and law enforcement agencies from around the world prompts suspicious activity reporting, increases intelligence sharing and provides a valuable resource by combining public and private partnerships to prevent crime and terrorism.
In today’s mass media environment, events occurring around the world can cause anxiety and fear. As a community looks to their law enforcement leaders for protection, they want to be assured that law enforcement is aware, prepared and in a position to keep them safe. They want to know who they can reach out to when seeing suspicious activity. Through SHIELD, we are able to garner crime and terrorism information/resources from around the world and reduce anxiety and fear through awareness, education, and close community partnerships. The result is a community better prepared to secure our homeland and mitigate the impact of expanding crime trends and acts of terror.
The events of September 11, 2001, set the wheels in motion for the development of the Global SHIELD Network, a law enforcement and intelligence network immersed in public/private-sector partnerships designed to prevent crime, terrorism and improve public safety. SHIELD connects law enforcement and intelligence agencies with public- and private-sector partners, thereby facilitating relationships, sharing of information and expanded global distribution. It accomplishes these things by recognizing that strong partnerships create safe communities.
As leaders we can never forget the strength we find in one another. September 11 reminded us of that. When we are united and working together, fear cannot get a foothold and terrorism cannot flourish.
If you are a law enforcement agency and are interested in more information about the Global SHIELD Network, you can send an email to CTSHIELD@nypd.org