Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 14, 2009

The Monster That Ate Law Enforcement

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,State and Local HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on January 14, 2009

“All my community policing grants turned into fire trucks, and homeland security became the monster that ate law enforcement.” While he may not be originally from Milwaukee, the police chief of my home town demonstrates a familiar flair that reminds me of Brew Town.

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn spoke yesterday at a two-day conference entitled “Shaping the Obama Administration’s Counterterrorism Strategy.” Flynn focused his remarks on the disconnect between what front line law enforcement sees as useful for collecting intelligence and combating crime and terrorism and what the federal agencies believe the states need. This disconnect was a concern before DHS stood up, which is why the state grants program was instituted, and it proved to be an ongoing issue as the UASI grants began to flow and when the Office of State and Local Government Coordination came to be.

Flynn was chief in Arlington on 9/11 and responded to the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon. He told the conference attendees that “The most frustrating, difficult experience of my life [has been] dealing with the federal departments.” That has to change.

While observers worry that the shift at the Obama White House to consolidate the Homeland Security Council with the more powerful National Security Council is a step in the wrong direction for states and localities, a different disconnect may be present. What Flynn was saying is that federal homeland security grants too often focus on tangible capital assets that are more useful for emergency response. He believes that training and enlarging police forces can pay significant dividends toward preventing homeland security lapses.

So as the Obama administration takes the reigns, two important issues must be addressed regarding the coordination between states/localities and DHS. First, the former needs to have a more productive seat at the table for influencing the best application of federal grant money when it comes to local efforts to protect the homeland. The former head of these DHS grants spoke on the same panel as Chief Flynn and admitted failed attempts to do so, losing out to “the bureaucracy.”

Second, the federal government – including those in Congress – must appreciate the value of longer-term investments in human capital at the local level. Many at DHS already understand this, but it is critical that such a shift in investments be enabled from DHS leadership and the Congress. It will take an understanding of the value of preventive capabilities, not just those for response, i.e. fire trucks.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

January 14, 2009 @ 2:03 pm

Time to support the Federal system. As part of the infrastructure program, DHS should fund together with DOJ, 25% of the Public Saftey budget of the 250 largest municipalities in the United States. This permanent funding would include personnel costs. Public Safety includes, Fire and police, Emergency Management (including Homeland Security and public health. The formula would be set by having the State and local governments break out a budget first for these programs functions and activities with segreation of the amounts for the jurisdictions within the states that fall within the 250 largest city designation by the federal government and the actual budgeting and obligation of these funds by the states in combination with the local governments for the 75% share. Probably a 25% State and 50% local but whatever. Then after that has actually occurred, with the exception of the first budget cycle of state and local government after the federal program is enacted and probably with the feds advancing the 25% estimated share for the first budget cycle or so) the permanent federal sharing would kick in. This could be part of the new federal infrastructure program expected to be enacted. This concept is “Shovel Ready” if only the Congress were to ask State and local officials. The federal interest in these programs operating 24/7 for at least 90 days in case of a domestic crisis is justification alone for the program. Of course it would also help if eventually compatibility and interoperability and mutual aid between these 250 largest municpal jurisdictions would evolve, much as the EMAC system at the State level is evolving.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

January 17, 2009 @ 8:09 am

This “shovel ready” concept and the new administration’s proposed implementation of a new infrastructure program for addressing the needs of localities is certainly very timely, welcomed by the Governors and Mayors and those at the helm of our local departments and those of us as citizens and taxpayers who wonder whether in our moment of desperate need whether properly trained and equipped first emergency responders will be slowed by inadequate federal, state and local budget support. This is unacceptable – Life must not be compromised….We must address these real concerns.

Our first responders have been seeking Washington’s focus in helping to address sometimes less than the minimum staffing, inadequate training and appropriate equipment and the lack of proper maintenance – i.e., Boston Fire where faulty equipment woes led to the death of a firefighter just recently whose ladder truck’s brakes failed and in a heroic effort not to slow the truck down by hitting parked cars placing walking pedestrians in jeopardy, the truck slammed into a building killing a firefighter now enlightening the public with calls that this maintenance issue be accordingly addressed and with expediency.

Here in New England and throughout Massachusetts specifically, we are hearing from the Governor that as a result of worsening revenue receipts, cuts to additional first emergency responders will be among an array of budget restraints imposed.

We rely on State funding and a message that public safety will be further compromised is unacceptable as many departments are already understaffed – pls see: Harwich (Cape Cod), MA Fire Department placing not only those seeking EMT and fire response – in their moment of desperate need – in further peril, wondering if a fellow resident or neighbor has called first and help must come from a distance or whether help will come in a timely manner at all.

You and I, the Governors, the Mayors, the local town Administrators, the new President indeed must also not forget the men and women who serve us and the necessity of having adequate assistance at the “scene” and the real possibility of compromising their safety as well – first response depends on a team effort.

I have been calling for “The First Responders’ Bailout” – a cry into the wilderness it seems until now and the promise by a new Washington Administration who understands – help now to address the real fiscal issues affecting the declining revenue receipts of States and their imposing cutbacks at the local level. Property taxes are high, cutbacks in jobs, foreclosures all spelling out the clear necessity that federal help is necessary….

Yes, equipment for some departments may need maintenance, yet without at least the minimum in personnel, emergency response vehicles will not move out of the station and it seems likely that unless the new administration acts quickly and sets up a representative liasion with state and local officials – Fire and Police Chiefs who truly understand weighing budgets and understanding their local needs amidst long standing and effective mutual aid agreements until now, fire, police and EMT response will be slowed further which for many of us – i.e., Harwich (Cape Cod), MA Fire is unacceptable – those in need should not wonder if their unfortunate “event” may not have anyone available to respond –

Federal assistance and the new President’s commitment to public safety is most welcome!

Mr. President, we are desperate – Pls lend assistance to our metropolitan areas and local communities.

The next plea for help in that dreaded – moment of need – has already been dialed!

(Chris)topher Tingus
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA

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