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“We have an incredible warrior class in this country—people in law enforcement, intelligence—and I thank God every night we have them standing fast to protect us from the tremendous amount of evil that exists in the world.” Brad Thor, Bestselling American Novelist (Thor, n.d.).
On September 11, 2001, I was the coordinator of a Florida police academy with 80 cadets who were all hired by various law enforcement agencies. They were preparing to begin new and exciting careers. Shortly before 9:00 am, I learned that one of the towers at the World Trade Center had been hit. That’s when we stopped academy instruction. We turned on the classroom TVs minutes before a plane crashed into the second tower. The balance of the day was spent watching news updates and discussing the role of law enforcement in terrorist attacks. We discussed a lack of communication among the various federal and local agencies responsible for keeping us safe, the need for someone to oversee all domestic security, and the necessity for more laws to assist federal and local law enforcement in the fight.The consensus was that we were at war with a formidable enemy and had been caught unprepared. I remember one student who talked about how the United States and law enforcement would respond to these terrorist attacks, stating that al-Qaeda had no idea what they had just done. Paraphrasing dialogue from the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! (spoken by Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto after the attack on Pearl Harbor), one cadet said, "They don’t realize that they have awakened a sleeping giant and will no doubt soon feel his terrible wrath!" (C. Bradford, personal communication, September 11, 2001).The observations of those cadets were prophetic: 45 five days after what soon became known as “9/11,” the USA Patriot Act was passed. With it, federal and local law enforcement began receiving new guidelines to prepare for a war. In November 2002, the Department of Homeland Security (a Cabinet-level department) was created to oversee and coordinate 22 federal departments and agencies (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2011). The Department’s current $57 billion budget (15 percent of the 2012 national budget) includes money for training, equipment, research, and jobs (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, n.d.).The “sleeping giant” has since toppled the government of Saddam Hussein (Iraq), overthrown the Taliban in Afghanistan, taken well over 2,900 people into custody because of suspected terrorist ties (Mendoza, 2011), and depleted most of al-Qaeda’s funding through new American banking and seizure/confiscation laws (Crawford, 2011). In addition, most of the top leaders of al-Qaeda have been killed or arrested (Miller, 2012). Since that fateful day in 2001, more than 50 serious, highly developed terrorist plots against the United States have been thwarted (Mission, 2012). While not all of these plots have been stopped by federal, state, and local law enforcement, these agencies had a hand in preventing a significant number as a result of cultivating informants, pursuing leads, and good old-fashioned police work. The state of American law enforcement is far different than it was when my academy cadets witnessed that second plane striking the World Trade Center. For example, the policies of the Department of Homeland Security, along with federal statutes, now make it easier to—and even mandate—share of information between law enforcement agencies (Bjelopera , 2011). Also, new laws make the apprehension, interrogation, and conviction of suspected terrorists and their accomplices less complicated.Moreover, law enforcement now has the tools and training to better combat terrorism. Most importantly, perhaps, law enforcement professionals in every branch of government understand that homeland security is part of their jobs, and they are eager and able to assume that responsibility.Ironically, the goal of al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks was to crush America. But the result made us stronger: stronger in many ways as a country, but nowhere moreso than in the area of law enforcement.About the Author
Timothy M. Kozyra, JD, has an extensive academic and practitioner background in criminal justice. A faculty member at Kaplan University since 2004, he also has taught more than 100 Criminal Justice Academy courses to law enforcement and correctional officers. He has served as a sheriff’s deputy and, later, a practicing attorney. He earned his doctor of jurisprudence degree at South Texas College of Law, Houston; his master’s degree in criminal justice from Kaplan University; and his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Niagara University, Niagara Falls, New York. ReferencesBjelopera, J.P. (2011, June 10). Terrorism information sharing and the nationwide suspicious activity report initiative: background and issues for Congress. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved at http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/166837.pdf Crawford, J. (2011, Sept. 9). U.S. choking terror funding sources since 9/11. CNN. Retrieved at http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/09/u-s-choking-terror-funding-sources-since-911/Mendoza, M. (2011, Sept. 4). Rightly or wrongly, thousands convicted of terrorism post-9/11. NBC News. Retrieved at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44389156/ns/us_news-9_11_ten_years_later/t/rightly-or-wrongly-thousands-convicted-terrorism-post-/Miller, J (2012, June 5). Abu Yahya al-Libi, al Qaeda deputy leader, killed in U.S. drone strike. CNN. Retrieved at http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57447601/abu-yahya-al-libi-al-qaeda-deputy-leader-killed-in-u.s-drone-strike/ Mission, T (2012, May 1). Intelligence agencies continue to keep America safe, stopping 51 terror plot since 9/11. ABC News Channel 5. Retrieved at http://www.newsnet5.com/dpp/news/local_news/intelligence-agencies-continue-to-keep-america-safe-stopping-51-terror-plots-since-911Thor, B. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/bradthor416635.htmlU.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2011, June 6). Creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved at http://www.dhs.gov/xabout/history/gc_1297963906741.shtmU.S. Department of Homeland Security. (n.d.). Fiscal year 2012 budget request. Retrieved at http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/budget-bib-fy2012-overview.pdf
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