Protecting the Role of State and Local Law Enforcement in the Nation’s Collective Effort to Prevent Terrorism

Scott Erickson ,  November 30, 2021

The role of state and local law enforcement efforts in identifying and preventing acts of terror expanded greatly in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, but is under attack today. The collaborative relationships that have grown between federal, state, and local law enforcement entities over the last twenty years has dramatically improved the free flow of information up and down the law enforcement spectrum, improving our Nation’s ability to identify, detect, and prevent another 9/11-style attack.

However, in recent years some liberal enclaves have sought to terminate those relationships, prohibiting information sharing between state or local police and their federal counterparts. These short-sighted and ill-conceived efforts only undermine our Nation’s ability to leverage a whole-of-government approach to countering terror and compromise law enforcement’s ability to effectively investigate and prevent a broad range of non-terror-related criminal activity.

AFPI’s Center for Homeland Security and Immigration recently released a White Paper on how this change occurred and steps that should be taken to restore this information sharing. The paper’s findings include recommendations that:

  • State and local law enforcement should be encouraged to actively seek collaboration with their federal counterparts through task force participation. Developing these relationships will serve immediate needs related to myriad criminal investigations but also create an atmosphere conducive to the free flow of information on items of interest where a potential nexus to terror may exist.
  • End the executive branch’s hostility toward ICE’s 287g program and working to bring new and more energized partnerships to bear in the collective effort to use state and local law enforcement as force multipliers in the identification of dangerous criminal aliens.
  • Increase funding for DHS’s Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) to ensure continued robust support for the Nation’s network of fusion centers. The HSGP is vital to the building out of state and local law enforcement capabilities within the Information Sharing Environment (ISE).
  • Encourage state and local law enforcement agencies to develop Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) protocols through participation in the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (NSI). The NSI “establishes a national capacity for gathering, documenting, processing, analyzing, and sharing SAR information” among federal, state, and local law enforcement and doing so in a “manner that rigorously protects the privacy and civil liberties of Americans.”

State and local law enforcement must remain essential partners in our Nation’s efforts to prevent another 9/11 from ever occurring. Now is not the time to lose sight of that reality.

Scott G. Erickson serves as a Senior Fellow, Center for Homeland Security and Immigration for the America First Policy Institute (AFPI).

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