After Sept. 11, our country entered a new era of policing. Departments around the country looked at their mission differently. Think back on some of the major changes:
- Federal agencies were reorganized.
- Entirely new agencies were established, including the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
- A color-coded security system was established to indicate the terrorism threat level.
- Billions of dollars have been spent in an effort to better equip and prepare agencies to respond to both natural and man-made disasters.
- Interoperability in communications and data sharing has not only become a priority but is also the norm in some parts of the country.
It s been more than six years since that fateful day in September, and there are some who think it s time to relax our efforts a little bit, as if we can just learn to get along with those who have made a vow to destroy America. Sure, we ve made mistakes, and there have been some misguided actions. But overall, public safety as a whole has steadily marched forward in recognizing its role in protecting America.
In my view, to relax this effort would be a very serious mistake. After the Sept. 11 attacks, some Muslim leaders criticized Osama bin Laden for:
1. Not providing sufficient warning;
2. Not offering America an opportunity to convert to Islam; and
3. Not obtaining sufficient religious authority for the high number of casualties.
Since that criticism, bin Laden has complied with each of these areas and warned America that because we failed to elect officials to change anti-Islamic policies, we ll be responsible for any future disaster. As far as he s concerned, civilians are as much responsible as the military because we elect our leaders.
As for obtaining religious authority for future attacks, a Saudi cleric named Shaykh Nasir bin Hamid al-Fahd issued a fatwa in which he affirmed that attacks would be justified based on treating others as one has been treated. He went on to say the number of Muslims killed as a result of U.S. military action is nearly 10 million. Draw your own conclusion.
To improve our public safety efforts in America, we ve employed the use of new technologies, such as cameras, automatic license plate readers and intelligence databases. I understand protests from civil libertarians who deplore the use of these technologies. After all, one of the most cherished and protected rights is privacy and protection against unreasonable searches.
However, the government s role has continued to evolve to protect our citizens. Greater threats have called for different techniques, and Congress and the courts have sanctioned actions designed to provide a higher level of safety and security with a minimal level of intrusion.
Example: sobriety checkpoints. Although several states have prohibited such practices, in Michigan State Police vs. Sitz, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded (6-3) society s needs outweighed minor invasions of privacy. Writing the majority opinion, late Chief Justice Rehnquist acknowledged checkpoints infringed on a constitutional right but argued reducing drunk driving outweighed this minor infringement.
This is exactly the criteria we must use if we re to gain the support of the American people. We re struggling with this balance right now in our country, and the outcome isn t certain. This is precisely why we need to embrace and acknowledge a new era of policing.
Approximately one year after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the outcome of World War II wasn t clear, and it was obvious a long fight lay ahead. America and its allies knew the enemies, and we knew what we had to do. Winston Churchill characterized that time as the end of the beginning. It was a time for resolve and commitment.
This phrase the end of the beginning aptly describes our current situation. We know our enemy, and we know what we have to do. We re engaged and mobilized, and we must persevere despite obstacles and challenges. We ve worked hard during the last six years, and our efforts are just beginning to show results. We must continue because this is only the end of the beginning. Dale Stockton, Editor