Los Angeles Police and Fire Departments to combat terrorism
5 Feb. 2009 -In a joint effort to combat terrorism the Los Angeles Police Department’s Special Weapons’ and Tactics Unit, and the Los Angeles Fire Department along with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa revealed their counter terrorism initiative Feb. 5. The initiative comes after the Mumbai, India attack that occurred Nov. 28 of last year.
“The recent events in Mumbai indicate that the problem of terrorism remains one of the most significant problems in the world and in this country,” Police chief William Bratton said.
In preparation to combat an attack equivalent to that of Mumbai, Bratton and several of his colleagues took a trip to Jordan to study the anti-terrorism tactics of Jordan’s General Intelligence Department. Deputy Chief Michael Downing said in order to fight terrorist attacks effectively the departments must search out and analyze the best practices from around the globe, and a collaborative effort with the fire department and the police department is also key in response.
“The GID has the best intelligence in the Middle East,” Downing said. “We plan to nurture this relationship with follow-up trips and build a network with them to beat the terrorist network. Our effort is really to build a culture of the best preventers.”
Three hundred officers are now part of the counterterrorism team and will focus on a commando style of attack. Deputy Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur will oversee internal and external sectors of the city departments, the county and regional agencies as well as national partners.
“The department is going to have to switch from community policing to commando in a matter of minutes, not hours,” MacArthur said.
To help neutralize an attack as efficiently as possible, the departments unveiled three armored vehicles: The MedCat, the Bear, and the BearCat. The Medcat is the first of its kind in the country. The armored vehicle contains both police and fire station radios so that both departments may communicate with one another in an emergency. It is equipped with a mobile ramp that can reach the top of a second floor building or the wing or door to a commercial air jet.
On board the MedCat are gurneys and oxygen masks. This armored vehicle will have SWAT EMT’s on board, but will later be housed with Fire Department paramedics as well.
The Bear, which can be used for cover, is designed to hold up to 12 SWAT officers. Gun ports are built into it. The BearCat, is an armored four-wheel drive vehicle that can run on flat tires. It can carry up to eight SWAT officers with its use primarily for the rescue of downed officers or civilians or to transfer officers from one point to another.
The total cost of each BearCat is $250,000 an amount that Villaraigosa upholds as reasonable.
“The central obligation of the city government it to protect and serve the people it represents,” Villaraigosa said. “But that responsibility should not be diminished in times of crises. Many cities are cutting back on their most central obligations. From Chicago, Miami, New York and Detroit, cities are cutting back from police and fire, but here in Los Angeles, we will not cut back on police and fire because we reject the trend.”
Bratton hopes that other cities will look to Los Angeles and follow by example.
“We are here to reaffirm the that the LAPD is a leader in this issue, in equipment and will come to have the best practices on national models in a multiple attack scenario, similar to what happened in Mumbai,” Bratton said. “The LAPD is constantly evolving and changing to any type of terrorist attack-single or multiple incident.”
Crime in Los Angeles is up in the first five weeks of this year. The total percentage increase of violent crimes in the city is up 5 percent more from last year. In comparison to last year, Bratton said, there have been 95 more robberies within these first few weeks than the same time last year. Aggravated assaults are also up by 13 more, a 2 percent increase from last year. Rapes are up 13 percent. In total there have been about 113 more crimes committed at the start of this year than at the beginning of last year.
“There is an expectation that as we get deeper into the year that those numbers will reverse,” Bratton said. “We will get into the negative columns. We are just seeing a strange trend these first five weeks of the year.”
However, Bratton said that 333 less property crimes have been committed within these past few weeks. Gang crimes, however, have gone up in several categories this year such as in shots fired, up by six percent, and victims shot up by 75 percent. The LAPD plans to implement Villaraigosa’s new Gang intervention program this year Bratton said.
For more information on the Los Angeles Police Department’s antiterrorism initiatives visit the Web site at www.lapd.org.