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Answering Terrorism Prevention and Homeland Security Threats

Criminal methods can vary from one place to another, so crime prevention must also vary. For example, in one city residential burglaries may be committed by juveniles cutting school, while in the next, gang thugs boldly smash the front doors of residences without regard to whether or not people are inside. Because of this, the three agencies view homeland security and terrorism prevention in different ways.

However, there are some common grounds. For example, Florida law enforcement agencies are excellent examples of stepping up to help one another, whether it involves a hurricane, rioting, or preventing trouble during an event like the Republican National Convention. Responders from different communities have working relationships and often train together to step up, fill in, or relieve.      

Due to the state’s floods, hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, and other common natural disasters, safety forces in Florida have experience, and contingency plans are commonplace. Where one community is weak in certain resources, others fill in with theirs. These can include all-terrain vehicles, armored rescue vehicles, bomb squads, tow trucks, helicopters, and road clearing equipment. Plans and training for a natural disaster can often, in whole or in part, be to put into place for any type of terrorist attack.


Terrorism Template

There is no universal definition in criminal law of what terrorism is. For this article, we use a working terrorism template expressed in two formats. First, a terrorist is someone causing terror to meet his/her criminal ends. This could be a robber, a rapist, an active shooter, a hostage taker, or someone who assaults another, acting alone or in a group. Terrorists can be homegrown militants or criminals or gangs, or they can have infiltrated the community with the intent to cause terror. These individuals are not ideological terrorist militants and could be called “quasi-terrorists.”

Second, terrorists can be ideological-based members of a militant, known terrorist group, acting out to cause civil disorder or acts of terrorism. Homeland security is generally focused upon countering the ideological-based members of known terrorist groups.



Pasco County, FL Sheriff’s Office

Pasco County has a population of about 470,000, a majority of whom live in the western section near the Gulf of Mexico. Within the county’s boundaries are six mid- and small-sized cities with city police departments. Pasco County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) is made up of 435 law enforcement deputies and 400 detention deputies. 

PCSO is a very anti-crime, mission-oriented agency. The experience of

Sheriff Chris Nocco and the rest of the Sheriff’s Office is th


it is easier for hardliners in these rural areas to advance their ideologies, and these groups tend to grow quickly.

According to Captain James Steffens, commander o

f the Special Operations Division, there is

no room for ignorance when dealing with terrorism and homeland security issues; they train to meet and exceed their visualized needs.

One of the two main militant groups in Pasco County is the White

Supremacists. According to the FBI, these are

extremists who further their goals through threatened or actual use of force, violence, or other illegal activity. The second group is the

Sovereign Citizens. The FBI considers them a growing domestic movement that is a threat to law enforcement.

They don’t believe in government or in paying government taxes. They feel citizens are the government and take a hard line when interpreting the U.S. Constitution. Both of these groups operate at a national level.

As to chemical, biological, and nuclear terrorism, there is a higher level of responsibility that includes federal and state agencies partnering with law enforcement and other emergency response services within the state. Intelligence information is shared at all levels.

The walls between agencies regarding information sharing and the ability to work together aren’t nearly as notable as in the past. Under the current system, Intelligence-Led Policing Section detectives connect through the fusion center and the Regional Domestic Security Task Force, which includes eight counties and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Terrorists change tactics and become part of the fabric of communities. Deputies are trained to recognize the differences between soft and hard terrorist targets, as well as recognize the differences in the telltale signs in an immerging situation from their standard types of calls. For example, is that adult casing schoolyards a pedophile, mentally ill, or a terrorist?

They conduct staff and training sessions to review nationwide school shootings, active shooter situations, and similar crimes, so when something like that happens in Pasco County, the sheriff’s office is better prepared. The deputies understand the concepts of Fourth-Generation Warfare


), unconventional warfare without front lines, so to speak. Information can be developed from many sources, such as the staffs of technical schools and universities.

The Sheriff’s Office Mobile Field Force doesn’t have a specialized team to handle civil disorder, but deputies receive periodic training in crowd and riot control and in various other tactical situations, such as those involving acts of violence by groups. Street deputies are trained to respond to the threat in active shooter situations. In continuity of operations during an emergency response, the sheriff’s office is currently focusing on how to better look after the families of the emergency response deputies.


Clearwater, Fla. Police Department


Clearwater Police Department has 235 sworn officers. According to Chief Anthony Holloway, the city is divided into three police zones. One zone encompasses primarily tourism and beach areas while the other two are business/residential. The police department has an Intelligence Unit that reviews all intelligence pertaining to local, state, and federal law enforcement.

One detective is assigned to the


Terrorism Task Force made up of

local, state, and federal

agencies. This detective gives Clearwater PD updates as to what is going on in their region regarding groups and potential targets. One active militant group within the city is Solvent Citizens; the hard targets include shopping malls and a liquid chlorine facility. The department is also a member of the Regional Domestic Security Task Force, which meets once a month.

Another unit that is a specially trained,

dedicated mobile command force is the Emergency Response Team (ERT). The ERT regularly trains in riot and crowd control as well as responds to manmade and natural disasters such as officer rescue, hurricanes, and tornadoes. ERT is subdivided into four squads, each with a team leader and an assistant team leader. Each squad is made up of 12 officers. They train in-house three or four times a year, and the entire department trains once a year as a mobile field force.

The ERT unit is capable of responding anywhere in Florida, the United States, or, in theory, the world. In the past, it was a key element in crowd control measures at the Republican National Convention. It also traveled to assist Cape Coral PD in the aftermath of a hurricane. In the field during a Squad Riot Formation, K9 teams can be on the flanks with two snipers positioned to engage any militant presenting a deadly threat. Sniper deployment depends upon gathered intelligence.

Active shooter training is conducted once a year for members of the police department, which allows them to discover their weaknesses. In this training, even a single officer is conditioned to respond to the threat instead of waiting. A response of one or more officers into the building used by an active shooter draws the attention of the shooter away from the hostages. First responder(s) do not do a deep clear but rather go toward the sound of the gun, searching out the bad guy(s), and asking witnesses where he is. The goal is to identify, isolate, and eliminate the threat. SWAT has also recently acquired an MRAP armored rescue vehicle.

In addition to active shooter scenarios, SWAT is called up for such situations as hostage rescue, high-risk warrants, barricaded suspect, and to support ERT in response to a shooter, etc. SWAT and ERT are part-time teams whose officers are assigned to other duties such as patrol or detective. In compliance with the Federal Incident Command System (ICS) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS), the entire Clearwater Police Department attends the various levels of training.

The police department has a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) in the event of any disaster, natural or terrorist. The police headquarters building is a hardened facility able to withstand certain levels of hurricanes. There are two Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) and a backup radio system. Police records are stored at a secondary, out-of-state location. There is a mandatory disaster/hurricane plan that every agency employee must fill out once a year. Their COOP plan is reviewed every year.

The department has two mobile command centers. The primary one is

a 41-foot long, 9.5-foot-wide van built on a Bluebird Bus Chassis. It is completely self-contained, providing the command with computers, various kinds of radio communications (HAM, CB, etc.), landline and cellular telephones, video cameras, and other technology that might be necessary. Inside there is also a shower facility with hot and cold water, a water cooler, bunks, and a galley. Police, fire and an emergency manager can be represented there, with the incident’s primary agency taking command.

Part of chemical, biological, and nuclear preparedness is in the form of a bag/kit containing two suits, decontamination gloves, gas mask, boots, and two filters for different levels of contamination—gas or chemicals. These are inspected on a routine basis.


Pinellas Park, Fla. Police Department

According to Captain Kevin Riley, Pinellas Park is a residential city of 50,000 residents. With 102 police officers and a total of 147 employees, this police department is the fifth largest in the county. Terrorism prevention and homeland security issues are not their primary policing concerns, but crime prevention certainly is.

Their 31-officer SWAT team is part-time, i.e., the tactical team members have collateral police duties. The department has one all-terrain vehicle, a mobile command center, and one military surplus MRAP (an armored rescue vehicle on order), and two trailers with van hook-ups that are loaded with supplies and ammunition.

SWAT trains monthly in officer rescue and downed citizen drills, active shooter, hostage taker, barricaded suspect, high-risk warrants, and vehicle take-downs. Six fire department tactical medics (paramedics) go out on SWAT call-ups and train with SWAT. They have all gone through basic SWAT school and participate in high-risk situations, as well as monitor the health and safety of SWAT team members.

Pinellas Park PD has an in-house intelligence squad made up of representatives from other departments within the agency. They have monthly sit-downs at which they review crime patterns, gang affiliations, and other information. This information directs and helps supervisors to be proactive in attacking, solving, and predicting criminal patterns.

The department’s greatest form of terrorism is cyber/Internet, in which individuals defraud citizens of Pinellas Park from other states and foreign countries. This might include filling out phony income tax forms in residents’ names. It is a huge problem and they conduct community outreach through education. However, this drains police department resources, is scary for the residents, and very expensive.

Pinellas Park PD has three K9s trained in tracking and locating drugs; when a bomb dog is needed, they can ask the county sheriff’s office for one of its bomb K9 teams. For issues involving bomb or suspected bombs, the department conducts improvised explosive (IED) training once a year in a 10-hour training day that covers four to five liability topics. If there is a bomb situation, the police will set up a perimeter and call in the Tampa Police Department’s bomb squad.

Pinellas Park PD is National Incident Management System (NIMS) compliant, with various officers taking the required courses. These are more in-depth for higher ranking officers. Continuity

of Operations Plan (COOP) considerations for the city are under the direction of a part-time city management coordinator. There is also a city disaster team panel made up of representatives from each division within the city that meets monthly.

All officers have basic chemical, biological, and nuclear training, and each officer has a gas mask with two types of filters. In such an event, the fire department has a primary role. The police department is also capable of responding to crowd and riot control requests from other agencies. Such training takes a backseat to the likes of active shooter training. Their training addresses sudden events like tornadoes, as well as events that are known to be coming such as hurricanes.

Part of a fire station is available for emergency operations as a Unified Operations Command. In a section of the fire station, there are bunks and other supplies for police, fire, dispatch, and public workers such as utilities and other services. Pinellas Park Police Department is also a member of the Regional Domestic Security Task Force.


Jim Weiss is a retired lieutenant from the Brook Park, Ohio Police Department and a frequent contributor to

LAW and ORDER. Mickey Davis is a California-based writer and author.

Published in Law and Order, Sep 2014

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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