Counterterrorism on patrol

From an interview with Fred Burton, a former special agent for counterterrorism with the U.S. Department of State

“Have you as a police officer done your reconnaissance to know where the U.S. military training facilities or recruiting sites are in your areas? Have you established contacts there?”

Fred Burton, former Deputy Chief of the Counterterrorism Division of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service speaks regularly with police officers around the country and these are among the many questions he asks his audience.

“You see, this business requires a lot of critical thinking and it takes an extraordinarily mentally alert police officer today — more than it ever has in the past,” Burton tells Police1. “In the past, a police officer gets in the car, they respond to the call, they take the report. Today it’s much more subtle, especially when you’re looking at it from the counterterrorism perspective.”

Burton advises officers to write their reports in close proximity to those locations where you can observe what kind of people are coming in and out, and taking note of people lurking there, or people who pay unusual interest or simply look out of place. “What kind of body language and demeanor is that kind of person — a lone-wolf jihadi conducting some sort of pre-operative surveillance — likely to display? What would they be looking at?”

So, think about the strategic vulnerabilities in your patrol area that might have national or international consequences. For example, there are fewer than 20 major East-West river crossings connecting one side of the Mighty Mississippi with the other. Do you have one in your area of responsibility?

For another example, it’s an excellent idea to know the locations of the military sub-contractors in your patrol areas. This goes beyond the obvious — Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and the like — to include all the companies which contract to them. You can bet the local terrorist cell knows that place. They might even have someone working on the inside.

Read much more from the mind of Fred Burton by checking out his columns on Police1, his book, GHOST: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent, or in the article American cops: Force multipliers in counterterrorism, presented in conjunction with our annual 9/11 Tribute.

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