Letter to AG Ashcroft Supporting Homeland Security Advisory System
April 23, 2002
The Honorable John Ashcroft
U.S. Department of Justice
Room 5137, Robert F. Kennedy Building
Tenth Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Attorney General Ashcroft:
On behalf of the International Associations of Chiefs of Police (IACP), I am writing to express our strong support for the recently established Homeland Security Advisory System. In addition, I would also like to thank both the Department of Justice and the Office of Homeland Security for working so closely with state and local law enforcement agencies in the development of this critical alert system.
As you know, the IACP strongly supported the establishment of a graduated alert system that would categorize the threat level confronting the United States and provide guidance as to what law enforcement actions would be appropriate for each threat level. We believe that the new advisory system, by providing a clear and concise protocol for issuing threat alerts, will help to provide state and local law enforcement executives with a clearer understanding of the threat level confronting their communities and the actions required of their agencies in response.
The IACP believes that the establishment of the Homeland Security Advisory System is an important first step in improving coordination and cooperation between the federal government and state and local law enforcement. However, the IACP also believes that additional steps must be taken to improve the manner in which information is shared and communicated between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. For example, as the issuance of previous threat alert advisories has demonstrated, the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS) has less than perfect success in reaching state and local law enforcement agencies, and as a result, there is no completely reliable communication system currently in place that allows the federal government to communicate effectively with state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. The IACP believes that it is critically important to establish and maintain a law enforcement communications network that ensures that the federal government can communicate with state and local law enforcement agencies in a confidential and timely manner. The IACP believes that the establishment of such a communications system will only serve to enhance the value of the Homeland Security Advisory System.
In addition, the IACP is concerned over the accessibility of many of the law enforcement-related databases currently maintained by federal law enforcement agencies. As you know, these databases represent the compilation of criminal justice information submitted by law enforcement agencies at all levels of government. Unfortunately, many of these databases were designed in a manner that has the effect of limiting the ability of state and local law enforcement agencies to access vital information. The IACP believes that if we are to build a truly effective partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement, then it is imperative that we improve the integration and compatibility of local, state, federal and international criminal justice information systems. Coordination of these systems will enhance the ability of law enforcement agencies to quickly access the information necessary to combat crime and terrorism in our increasingly mobile society.
Since the events of September 11, state and local law enforcement agencies have worked closely with the federal government in an effort to respond to and prevent terrorist attacks. While this vital partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement has been successful in its immediate efforts, it has also become apparent that in order to be truly effective, we must continue to search for ways to improve cooperation, coordination and information sharing.
The IACP looks forward to working with the Department of Justice and the Office of Homeland Defense on these and other vital issues in the fight against terrorism.
William B. Berger