What's Important Now (WIN)? One, being ready and never being complacent. New York City police officers stand guard outside ground zero in New York, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011. The National September 11 Memorial will be dedicated on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, Sept. 11, 2011, and will be open to the public the following day. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
As we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11, a lot of attention will be focused on remembering what occurred and those we lost. That’s certainly important. But we at Law Officer feel this issue should be more than a reminiscence about what happened. Instead, we must honor our fallen by learning from the tragedy and improving our capability. We must equip our profession to both prevent another 9/11 and prevail in the event that the unthinkable occurs.
There’s no single approach that will work. There are different opinions on how, when and where the next attack will occur. To give you the absolute best opportunity for a broad-based and knowledgeable perspective, we challenged many of our columnists to provide an additional contribution this month: to tell us what they remember and, in keeping with our Below 100 effort, to identify the WIN factor (What’s Important Now?).
In addition, I reached out to some people who have experienced terrorism in a way that few can only imagine. Beginning on p. 44, you’ll find interviews with retired N.Y. and N.J. Port Authority Chief Joe Morris, N.J. Transit Chief Christopher Trucillo, retired N.Y. and N.J. Port Authority Detective Will Jimeno and West Memphis (Ark.) Police Chief Bob Paudert. They all have a unique and valuable perspective on 9/11, and I guarantee that reviewing their words will provide thought-provoking insight.
One of these men, Will Jimeno, isn’t only a very good friend—he’s the subject of my all-time favorite article, Buried Alive. I have updated this feature and it’s available on LawOfficer.com. If you haven’t seen the movie World Trade Center, the true account of Jimeno and Sgt. John McGloughlin, I strongly encourage you to check out the DVD and watch it with your family. I’ve heard from some that they didn’t watch the movie because they didn’t want to be depressed. Here’s my take: The movie is so encouraging, we used it as a key component in two relief efforts: Project Inspire I and II.
My 9/11 Experience
I want to share my personal account of what I remember most about 9/11. I’m on the West Coast and I was just getting to work as the events were unfolding. I was the investigations commander at the time. As it became apparent that our nation was being attacked, the command staff met in the chief’s office and tried to determine what would be the best action. I later learned that this same type of conversation was taking place in chiefs’ offices around the country. Law enforcement leaders were trying to figure out how best to provide a sense of safety and stay ahead of expectations. The phones were ringing with media inquiries as to what steps were being taken.
Our jurisdiction is home to one of the most popular theme parks in the world for children and it occurred to some members of the staff that terrorists might take great delight in wreaking havoc at a children’s theme park. Accordingly, we contacted the park and worked with them to ensure that there was “heightened security.” Sound familiar? We also did what most other agencies did: We told the officers
to be aware of critical infrastructure and watch for anything that looked “suspicious.”
We all wanted to do something, and we knew we should be taking action. But the ability to act on this was very limited. That was incredibly frustrating because there just didn’t seem to be a definitive step to take that would somehow protect our homeland and ensure those responsible were held accountable.
Personally, I was so impacted by 9/11, I tried to rejoin the U.S. Air Force (where I started my law enforcement career). Unfortunately, I quickly found out I was too old to re-enlist. When I sought a waiver, I was told it would take congressional action. I even explored that possibility, but eventually gave up, recognizing that I had a responsibility and role that would be non-military. I have never forgotten that day and the feeling of, “We must do something, but what can we do?” I believe that same sentiment was felt by law enforcement leaders throughout our country.
Going forward, what’s important? I know the answer to this one. We owe it to those who gave their lives to continually hone our skills, safeguard our homeland and never forget that it can happen anywhere, at anytime. Law enforcement in this country is truly the tip of the spear, the line in the sand that defines our country and protects our freedoms.
—Dale Stockton, Editor in Chief
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