There is an interesting blog post over at ISE.org (Information Sharing Environment, the lead organization for managing the Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) project at DOJ). The blog briefly describes a new training program for ‘front line officers’ to support the SAR goal of helping to “detect and prevent terrorism-related criminal activity in a manner that rigorously protects the privacy and civil liberties of Americans”. It also provides three separate links to the training program.
Training Program Review
I watched the 18 minute presentation on the Law Enforcement And Public Safety (LEAPS.tv) channel and was pretty satisfied with the above average presentation. The audio-slide show format was well done and provides a smooth presentation at a relatively low bandwidth. It provided a good overview of the SARS process and the place of the police patrol officer within the process. It did provide a pretty good balance between suspicious activity reporting and protecting civil liberties. It even hit on the issue of photographers, a problem that I talked about in an earlier blog. It also provides a number of real-world examples of instances where police patrol officers discovered information that directly led to the arrest of terrorists or prevention of terrorist attacks.
I would have liked to have seen more information on how a police officer should approach individuals in those borderline cases that might be suspicious activity or it might be constitutionally protected activity. That might be too much to expect from a SAR program overview like this. I would like to see someone do a video presentation on how those situations could be recognized and how to best deal with them.
I understand that this is a training program for police officers. I was concerned, however, when I went to view this at Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism site and as part of the registration I was expected to “Swear or Affirm” that I was either a police officer or an intelligence analyst before I could watch the presentation. That seemed to me to be a bit much. The registration process at the NSI [Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative; that’s a strange acronym for that name; maybe they wanted to sound like those TV folks] site implies that it is strictly limited to police officers. The registration process at the LEAPS.TV site specifically includes ‘Company’ in the description of the organization to which you belonged, so I felt ‘safe’ registering on that site. All three sites do require registration to view the program.
The NSI site does offer a post-training testing and certification process (including awarding Continuing Education Units), but there is a charge for that. Otherwise the training program is free.
I think that this would be a pretty decent training program for security personnel at high-risk chemical facilities to take. I understand that there are some very real legal differences between security guards and police officers, but those are not germane to a discussion of suspicious activity reporting. As I have mentioned on a number of occasions, all personnel and particularly security personnel at high-risk facilities are going to have to be actively watching for suspicious activity if the terrorist planning cycle is going to be interrupted before an attack is initiated.
The only problem is I have seen nothing in the discussion of the SAR process that deals with reporting by security professionals who are not members of law enforcement. Now I am fairly sure that a security manager at a Tier 1 or Tier 2 high-risk chemical facility will not have any problem with working out a reporting system with the local Joint Terrorism Task Force. At many Tier 3 or 4 facilities where the security manager may not be a security professional, may have a more difficult time getting routine SARs accepted into the formal system. They may have more pull though with the local police intelligence unit.
As I have mentioned on a number of occasions, it would seem to me to be a good idea to have a Chemical Fusion Center that would specifically address this issue. They would have the trained personnel to evaluate the SAR and the pull to get additional follow-up investigation by the JTTF where it was warranted.
In any case, however you work out your SAR submission process, I recommend that any security manager at a high-risk chemical facility should consider having the security guards at that facility sit down for this 18 minute training program. It may help them to understand the importance of making timely reports of suspicious activity.