Jerusalem Police chief Mickey Levy (right) with senior Washington DC police official Chuck Wexler last week in Jerusalem. (Photo: Isaac Harari)A delegation of 30 senior U.S. police commissioners and police chiefs spent four days last week studying how the Israeli police handle law enforcement in an era of global terror, bringing new ideas and techniques back to their hometowns.
The four-day security meeting which brought the group of 30 senior law enforcement officials from the US and Canada was “unprecedented in both its size and scope,” of cooperation between the two sides, according to the police. Topics of workshops included identifying terror cells, drawing public support for the fight against terror, and coping with the aftermath of a terrorist attack.
“The international issue of terrorist organizations, their financing, and their tactics is something we can all learn from the Israelis,” said Thomas C. Frazier, who serves as Executive Director of the Baltimore-based Major Cities Police Chiefs Association. “As we deal with the threat of international terror, we need such counter-terrorism cooperation, he said.
“In each of our cities we have the same mixtures, though on a smaller scale, of what you have right here in Jerusalem,” said Portland, Oregon police chief Mark Kroeker. “Our concern is that the same violence that you have here, may erupt in our cities as terrorism goes global,” he said.
The group, who visited Jerusalem and Tel Aviv police headquarters, were briefed by their Israeli counterparts on how on average eight out of ten Palestinian terror attacks are thwarted by Israeli security services, and were also told about the importance the police place on the 70,000 volunteers that buttress up the total 26,000 member Israel police force, said Israel police spokesman Gil Kleiman.
“What was particularly interesting for me is how the principal source of information for police is the common citizen,” Kroeker, the Portland chief said, after hearing of the hundreds of attacks averted by alert citizens. “After all the scientific intelligence gathering, ultimately the most powerful source of information is the community,” he said.
The Sheriff of Los Angeles, Leroy D. Baca, also said that the American law enforcement officials were particularly interested consulting with their Israeli counterparts regarding the gathering of intelligence information, noting that this is an area in which “Israel has the edge” currently.
Voicing his admiration for the strong community support system in Israel in the wake of a terror attack, – “I cannot imagine any community as strong and as helpful as that in this country,” Baca said. “the heroes of the world are here in Israel.”
Many of the members of the delegation said that despite the distance between the two countries, they shared a common fight against terrorism that targets civilians.
“Here we are halfway around the world, but we are facing many of the same problems,” said Michael Grossman, a Captain at the Emergency Operations Bureau of the LA Sheriff’s department.
“During my visit I have learned that terrorism is a global problem, which needs to be fought with our friends and allies like Israel, who have to deal with terrorism on such a frequent basis,” said R Doyle Campbell Chief of Homeland Security at the Los Angeles’ Sheriff’s Department.
Trampling on basic human rights he said, “is an issue and concern that has to be weighed” as police and law enforcement officials go about their work, he said.
“The questions we need to answer in Detroit,” concurred police chief Jerry Oliver, whose city is home to the largest Muslim population in the U.S.,”is how do we reconcile civil liberties vs. our security needs? Americans have tough decisions to make, how closely guarded we want to be, how many x-rays, metal detectors do we want in our daily lives to have security protection,” he said.
Among the participants in the high-level delegation were the police chiefs of Washington DC, Portland, and Chicago; the police commissioners of Washington, Boston, Kansas City, Detroit, California, and Philadelphia, and various FBI representatives.