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Counter-Terrorism After 9/11—An interview with Dr. Frank Straub, Director of the Center for Mass Violence Response Studies at the National Police Foundation

Counter-Terrorism After 9/11—An interview with Dr. Frank Straub, Director of the Center for Mass Violence Response Studies at the National Police Foundation

Reprinted with permission from the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) – The Hague

Twenty years ago, Frank Straub was a first responder on the scene of the attacks in lower Manhattan. Looking back, we go through his experience of the day and his perspective on how counter-terrorism in policing changed after the attacks. Interviewing him is Dr. Joana Cook, an ICCT Senior Project Manager and Editor-in-Chief of the ICCT Journal.

JOANA COOK: Dr. Straub, thanks for joining us today. Can you please introduce yourself to our audience?

FRANK STRAUB: I’m the director of the National Police Foundation’s Center for Mass Violence Response Studies. I joined NPF approximately five and a half years ago, after spending thirty years in federal, state and local law enforcement in the United States. Early in my career, I worked in the counter-terrorism, counter-extremism space with the US State Department, and the US Naval Investigative Service. I left and then joined the US Department of Justice Inspector General’s office with the intent of working on public corruption cases. In 1993, when the first attack on the World Trade Centre happened, I ended up becoming involved in that investigation as a result of an individual that we had arrested on bribery charges.

About two weeks after the 9/11 attack, I joined the NYPD as the Deputy Commissioner of Training. I served in that position for about six months and then I was asked to help stand up the counter-terrorism division in the New York City Police Department. After doing that, I went up to a small community about thirty miles north of New York, where I was the Public Safety Commissioner and was there for about nine years and then left and went out to Indianapolis, Indiana, as the Public Safety Director for the city, and then out to Spokane, Washington, where I was the Police Chief. I then joined the National Police Foundation.

COOK: Where were you on the morning of 9/11? What do you remember from that day?

STRAUB: I was working about six blocks south of the World Trade Centre complex. While I was in the elevator, I felt the building shake. I got down to the ground floor and went outside and everybody was looking at the World Trade Centre. I looked up at it, it was an absolutely crystal clear day, and it was clear that a rather large aircraft had hit the tower. From my perspective, it was impossible that it was an accident for a plane, a commercial aircraft, to hit that building. [Based on] my work in the 1993 case, and my work in the Terrorism Task Force, I concluded pretty quickly that this was an intentional attack.

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Remembering 9/11 – Looking Past Hate Toward the Greatness of Unity

September 11, 2001 changed the lives of many. For those who lived through it, we will never forget the exact moments when we learned that a horrible tragedy was no accident, searing the visions in our minds forever. Almost 3,000 lives were lost on that day and more than 6,000 injured; in addition, a significant number of the heroes who responded to the attacks have died or are suffering from mental illness or diseases that are a result of exposure to the scene—in the deadliest terrorist attack in our history. As the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, we remember and we reflect on the impact those attacks have had on our nation, especially our law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other first responders who willingly and knowingly risked or gave their lives to save others.

Much of a first responder’s job is to help people during their most difficult and trying life events, however, September 11, 2001, was undeniably different than what most of us have experienced in our lives. The sacrifices of our first reponders have not been forgotten—in fact, 9/11 is a solemn reminder to us, that even in our darkest moments, our first responders will always show up to protect our communities, even at their own peril. For those who were able to physically survive the attacks, they have faced longstanding physical and mental trauma and an increased risk of heart, respiratory, and cancer-related illnesses. While most of us remember that day on its anniversary, these heroes relive and struggle with 9/11—every day.

Because of the courage and dedication of our first responders, and the unity born out of tragedy, terrorism did not win that day, just as it will not win today or tomorrow. Instead, we, as Americans, and the world demonstrated that justice shall prevail. In honor of those who serve, we offer our gratitude, support, and deepest respect. Let us continue to honor the legacy of those who perished, support the survivors, and commit to telling our children how sacrifice, hope, bravery, and courage prevailed, and how we—as Americans and the world—came together in unity. Though hate may have brought us momentarily to our knees, the power of unity and hope will always be much greater.

Co-Responder Models in Policing: Better Serving Communities

By Dean Esserman
National Police Foundation Senior Counselor

Over the last 30 years, a growing number of agencies have increasingly adopted police-mental health collaboration (PMHC) programs, also known as co-responder models, to provide an enhanced response to victims of crime or people in the throes of an emotional or behavioral health crisis[1]. Utilizing this model, law enforcement and mental health clinicians respond to these calls for service together, providing an improved and immediate response to crisis situations by conducting a more accurate needs assessment on scene for the person in distress, and connecting them and their families to community-based resources. While co-responding is certainly not new, it is an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to working with victims of crimes. The journey of a victim does not end with a simple 9-1-1 call, in fact, it is only the beginning of what may be a long journey toward recovery. As law enforcement and community leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that our efforts are not limited to a law enforcement response but rather includes holistic victim services and support.

My first experience with PMHC programs came in 1992, when I was part of a team that built a partnership between the New Haven Police Department and the Yale Child Study Center that focused on children exposed to violence. This collaboration led to the creation of the Child Development/Community Policing Program, in which law enforcement officers and clinicians established training and orientation sessions for one another and worked to establish and implement joint protocols. Eventually, the partnership evolved into responding together to calls for service. The work we did in New Haven was later recognized by the White House, which designated the Yale Child Study Center as the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence.

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“Neighborhood-Driven Policing Revisited”: New Paper Available

NPF Announces New “Innovations in Policing” Series and Publishes First Paper on the Neighborhood-Driven Policing Model 

August 24, 2021—The National Police Foundation is pleased to announce a new essay series, Innovations in Policing (IIP), intended to stimulate new ideas and approaches to policing and safety and to encourage further discussion on how policing may become more effective as a result. IIP seeks to generate greater dialogue within the profession about  innovative concepts or approaches that may depart from traditional methods and invites conversation from a variety of perspectives.

In conjunction with the announcement of the series, the first paper as part of the series, “Neighborhood-Driven Policing Revisited,” is now available. In 2005, Levin & Myers wrote an article describing a model of policing referred to as Neighborhood-Driven Policing (NDP). NDP, which builds on the principles of community policing, introduced a non-traditional and aspirational vision of policing. As futurists, Levin & Myers offered the NDP model in the hope it would stimulate thought leaders to reflect and recommend changes in how the police could better serve their communities. Now, more than a decade later, the NDP model is being revisited by policing reform advocates as several key elements of NDP encapsulate various changes that have garnered widespread consideration in recent years. In particular, the events of the spring and summer of 2020 have provided us with the opportunity to rethink the NPD model. While much has changed in the fifteen years since the original piece was published, many other issues remain stubbornly entrenched.

“Neighborhood-Driven Policing Revisited” involved conducting an analysis of research and seeks to describe an updated vision of how NDP might better-meet the needs and expectations of both police and residents in contemporary communities. The authors offer this revisitation of NDP as a starting point for more imaginative conversations about how we should rethink basic assumptions about police staffing, police deployment, the skills of policing, and the nature of police-communication roles and relationships. Furthermore, the paper encourages ways to think about the position and role that police and residents occupy in their relationship with each other as they seek to enhance shared goals, namely community safety and resident well-being.

To view the paper, please visit: https://www.policefoundation.org/publication/neighborhood-driven-policing-revisited/

NPF Releases New Report, “The Proliferation of Ghost Guns: Regulation Gaps and Challenges for Law Enforcement”

August 9, 2021—The National Police Foundation (NPF) is pleased to release a new report, The Proliferation of Ghost Guns: Regulation Gaps and Challenges for Law Enforcement.

Ghost guns (also known as privately made or unserialized firearms) have become a significant concern to law enforcement and public safety. The term “ghost gun” encompasses a variety of firearms produced from components that are not currently regulated by federal firearm laws. Most commonly, ghost guns are produced from components purchased from businesses and individuals that most often include nearly finished aluminum, polymer frames, or receivers.

Advances in ghost gun parts manufacturing facilitates homemade production of firearms by non-technical users. Public safety and gun violence prevention advocates cite the growing representation of ghost guns in crime as well as the ease of production, lack of background checks, and poor traceability as reasons that ghost guns components and kits should be regulated like all other firearms.

In response to this issue, NPF conducted a study of 24 diverse law enforcement agencies (LEAs), which addressed current knowledge gaps by exploring law enforcement’s experience with ghost guns to provide a national overview of current perceptions, practices, and recommendations for improving public policy. Interviews with command, patrol, forensics, and specialized units from 24 LEAs revealed that there was a patchwork of experience with, and strategies to address the public safety risk created by ghost guns. Policy recommendations based on this research include halting the proliferation of ghost guns through regulating the production and sale of ghost gun components and kits by updating the outdated definition of firearm. Recommendations for improvements on the process of tracking and reporting ghost gun data, training, within-agency information sharing, and research are also discussed.

To view the full report, please visit: https://www.policefoundation.org/publication/the-proliferation-of-ghost-guns-regulation-gaps-and-challenges-for-law-enforcement/

NPF Partners With Manchester (NH) Police Department to Implement CS360—a Collaborative Problem-Solving Model Within a Performance Management Framework

July 26, 2021—The Manchester (NH) Police Department (MPD) is partnering with the National Police Foundation (NPF) to adopt a new initiative that is derived from some aspects of traditional performance management systems used by police departments—CompStat. CS360 is different from traditional CompStat in light of its emphasis on enhanced problem-solving approaches designed to tackle the unique challenges police departments and communities face every day. The CS360 process takes a proactive and solutions-oriented approach, which emphasizes community collaboration, responsiveness, strategic problem solving, and community satisfaction. It is also key to building trust and meaningful engagement between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Where traditional CompStat relied upon crime numbers as the ultimate measure of success, CS360 relies on the extent to which the agency, the community and partner organizations work together to learn and solve problems that may or may not show up in official crime data. At its core is the idea that we cannot ultimately be successful unless we have met our goals in improving safety while maintaining satisfaction and trust with the community and while maintaining an effective police organization and officers.

Since its launch, MPD has driven the CS360 approach forward. MPD has engaged with an inclusive group of stakeholders—both internal and external to the department—to promote the co-production of public safety. With the support of NPF, they have developed an Advisory Team that is co-chaired by a community stakeholder and MPD representative. This Advisory Team will manage CS360 within Manchester and ensure resources are available to support problem-solving efforts. The Advisory Team is currently developing a targeted problem-solving team that will begin to develop metrics and possible solutions to address the critical public safety concern of rising gun violence in Manchester, NH.

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NPF Releases New Guidebook, “Staying Healthy in the Fray: The Impact of Crowd Management on Officers in the Context of Civil Unrest”

July 15, 2021—The National Police Foundation (NPF), in partnership with the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), is pleased to release Staying Healthy in the Fray: The Impact of Crowd Management on Officers in the Context of Civil Unrest. This guidebook will serve as a safety and wellness resource to frontline officers, supervisors, and law enforcement executives when in the midst of policing mass demonstrations. The guidebook offers steps which can be taken on an individual and organizational level to aid officers in preparing for and protecting colleagues and themselves during, and recovering from, moments of civil unrest. The goal of the guidebook is to provide a holistic sense of support for officers’ physical and mental health, both while at work and at home. We must develop and support organizational cultures that recognize and prioritize officer safety and wellness as an integral part of policing protests and the foundation of community policing.

The guidebook has been created with the support of the BJA Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability (VALOR) Initiative. BJA created the VALOR Officer Safety and Wellness Initiative to improve officer safety training resources and opportunities available to the law enforcement community in the United States. The goal of the Initiative is to increase officer safety and resilience and strengthen officer wellness.

Qualified Immunity and Accountability in Policing

National Police Foundation encourages careful thought and examination of qualified immunity and urgently calls for more research to inform conversations and debate.  

June 30, 2021—America’s legal system has afforded government officials at various levels with absolute and qualified immunity protections in recognition of the risks associated with their roles and responsibilities.  Although qualified immunity is available to many state and local government workers, law enforcement officers rely on qualified immunity as they make life or death decisions in everyday encounters as well as in crisis situations without the benefit of hindsight. Qualified immunity was not meant to relieve officers or their agencies from the duty and responsibility to act within the law, but does address the unique context in which they must act.

The intense debate over qualified immunity protections for police and the difficulty in resolving it stem from a broader crisis of trust and the need for accountability.

Not unlike other issues, the debate is made more complicated and challenging by the fact that not all who are engaged in the debate have been afforded a full understanding of the doctrine or the realities of government employees’ exposure to liability, potential for indemnification, and accountability outcomes; and, little research exists, leaving a vacuum to be filled, often without full or complete facts.

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National Police Foundation Hosts Fifth Multi-Site Crime Gun Intelligence Center Training for Eight New Communities Using the CGIC Model to Disrupt Violent Crime

June 28, 2021—The National Police Foundation’s National Resource and Technical Assistance Center for Improving Law Enforcement Investigations (NRTAC), supported by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) in partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), has assisted 27 sites across the country with implementing policies and processes to enhance their crime gun intelligence centers (CGICs) to respond to fatal and non-fatal shootings. The CGIC model supports interagency collaboration focused on the immediate collection, management, and analysis of crime gun evidence in real time to prevent further shootings. The CGIC model is rooted in data analysis and sustainable partnerships, both of which could not be more important during our current climate. Collaboration between local police departments, governmental stakeholders, and the community is critical to driving down gun violence and enhancing police legitimacy. Law enforcement from all eight sites heard from experts and peers about the importance of key technologies for disrupting the shooting cycle, such as the ATF’s National Integrated Ballistics Imaging Network (NIBIN), as well as the importance of information sharing with partners and the community.

The new sites, selected by BJA through a competitive process, include: Albuquerque, NM; Chattanooga, TN; New Haven, CT; Henderson, NC; Myrtle Beach, SC; Palm Beach County, FL; Miami, FL; Toledo, OH.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) is currently seeking new CGIC sites to be selected in the Fall of 2021. See https://bja.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh186/files/media/document/O-BJA-2021-47002.pdf.

The deadline to apply is July 14, 2021.

To learn more about the CGIC Initiative, please visit: https://crimegunintelcenters.org.

U.S. Attorney General Announces New Effort to Reduce Violent Crime

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
May 26, 2021

WASHINGTON—Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today announced a new Department of Justice effort to help protect our communities from the recent increase in major violent crimes.

“Today, we renew our commitment to reducing violent crime and building strong communities where all Americans are safe,” said Attorney General Garland. “The Deputy Attorney General is issuing a comprehensive strategy to deploy our federal resources in the most effective way, disrupting the most dangerous threats and supporting the ground-level efforts of local law enforcement.  In this endeavor, we will engage our communities as critical partners. And through our grantmaking, we will support programming at all stages—from the earliest violence interruption strategies to post-conviction reentry services.”

The strategy announced today is three-pronged. First, it establishes a set of four fundamental principles to be applied Department-wide to guide violent crime reduction:

  1. Build trust and earn legitimacy. Meaningful law enforcement engagement with, and accountability to, the community are essential underpinnings of any effective strategy to address violent crime, as well as important ends in themselves. Accordingly, building trust and earning legitimacy within our communities is the foundation on which the strategy is built.
  2. Invest in prevention and intervention programs. Violent crime is not a problem that can be solved by law enforcement alone. Accordingly, the Department must invest in community-based violence prevention and intervention programs that work to keep violence from happening before it occurs.
  3. Target enforcement efforts and priorities. The Department is most effective when it focuses its limited enforcement resources on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting the most significant drivers of gun violence and other violent crime.
  4. Measure results. Because the fundamental goal of this work is to reduce the level of violence in our communities, not to increase the number of arrests or prosecutions as if they were ends in themselves—we must measure the results of our efforts on these grounds.

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