Homeland Security

Assessing challenges posed by domestic police agencies in countering terrorism
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 29 Nov , 2017

Another incident which shares similarity on an armed “confrontational” level rose in Los Angeles in 1997. During a Bank heist in Los Angeles, the officers of Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)responded to a bank heist committed by “highly armed” bank robbers. The officers responding to bank robbers were equipped with 9mm side arms (baretta) and 12 gauge shot guns whereas the robbers were equipped with 7.62mm assault rifles and state of the art body armour, which pinned most of the responding LAPD officers due to extensive fire superiority. This scenario shook the leadership of LAPD forcing them to change the “arming” policy. Today, the LAPD officers are equipped with AR-15 rifles which ensures that the officers are capable to respond to any active shooting incidents and are able to defend themselves and civilians in case of a similar situation.

Furthermore, training is imperative for responding officers, hence domestic security agencies must strengthen the training mechanism with respect to modern policing. Moreover, right equipment is a must, hence police agencies could interact with multi-national police organizations in an effort to equip the officers adequately. Moreover, reinforcing the local law enforcement with tactical units irrespective of “vulnerable or light” jurisdictions will play an effective role in eliminating the shooter, however, its effectiveness can only be of virtue if the units are deployed in time. The aforementioned experience faced by patrolling officers of the LAPD highlights the issues faced by “first responders” equipped smaller calibre handguns while pursuing armed criminals with heavy calibre rifles. The decision taken by top police leadership to reinforce their smaller calibre weapons with additional large calibre semi-automatic rifles enhances their ability to respond. Officers would then enforce a cordon, and if challenged with fire power, they will have the initiative to respond, “affectively and immediately” denying any further loss of life.

Terror perpetrators which inflicted wounds in Mumbai were more than just armed robbers, their ability to supress with “fire superiority” highlights their agenda to inflict wounds. Their objective was to kill as many masses as possible. This points to the fact that, until and unless they are completely neutralised by police forces, they will continue to kill. Mumbai police must understand the level of threat posed by these terror factions, rather relying on specific heavily trained officers, they must employ “fire superiority” initiative while deploying patrols on the ground.

Incidentally, the threat that challenged police officers in Mumbai has forced local law enforcement agencies in the UK to upgrade the skill set, training mechanism and weapons carrying capacity of coppers and armed response units, in an effort to counter/respond similar style attacks.

Policy makers must address the challenges faced by first responders of such attacks. The terror perpetrators of Mumbai attacks were equipped with multiple grenades, large “extended” magazine capacity and a Chinese AK-56. They were further equipped with improvised explosive devices which threw the police and intelligence responded mechanism into disarray, thus compromising their ability to initiate a joint response strategy. Furthermore, the law enforcement agencies were not equipped with a tactical unit out of which the responsibility to breach the Taj was given to the National Security Guards, which took over nine hours to reach Mumbai and confront the militants.

Role of Intelligence

In an effort to carry out operations similar to Mumbai, terror factions would need to train their elements in advanced weaponry and learn “classic” tradecraft techniques in order to “cloak” themselves from domestic and external intelligence agencies. Militant group would also tutor skills to “limit their activities without alerting law enforcement” agencies. With militant factions employing non-traditional means to achieve their ends, domestic and external intelligence agencies must not limit themselves to acquiring “knowledge” through traditional means. Their “alertness” remains vital to counter militant factions. In such scenarios, “information based on prediction” or “warning intel”, highlighting the possibility of an attack plays a vital role in preparing local law enforcement agencies in case of a “pre-emptive” attack. Although, the prediction on the basis of credible intelligence at such levels remains difficult. Intelligence agencies must “aggressively” interact with policy makers and draft necessary hypothesis based on numerous possibilities of infiltration, specifically highlighting/projecting points of infiltration, and the challenges it may pose before drafting a response. This is known as “pre-emptive engagement”, where the militants continue to execute their plans of operations without the slightest possibility of a strong fire engagement.

It is important to note that, traditional concepts of intelligences particularly the ones successfully employed during Cold War, cannot be applied here. The traditional concepts of intelligence will not be able to “effectively” counter the “non-traditional” methodologies used by militant factions, a different approach in contemporary terrorism. This new methodology employed in contemporary terrorism required the use of violent non-state actors, Islamic militant ideology that fulfils the political purposes of the state, reinforced with advanced communication means. Furthermore, policy makers must understand that, beside the efficacy of local law enforcement agencies, no domestic agencies will be “expert” in engaging with militants than the local patrolling officer.

Moreover, enforcement agencies, intelligence units must thoroughly understand local geography, offences in the vicinity, and criminal activities in an effort to assess a change from traditional scenario, prepping the first responder. In a scenario of traditional policing coupled by national monetary pressure and budget cuts, many intelligence agencies are unable to focus their attention or relocate their available resources to solely on counter-terrorism hindering them in providing “vital” intelligence to local law enforcement agencies.

Furthermore, intelligence agencies must be reinforced in a way it suits best to domestic and external security agencies, effective and efficient in providing timely knowledge. In an effort to use the “acquired knowledge” effectively, the domestic and external intelligence agency must be “flexible” enough to adapt with future challenges. Knowledge provided to relevant policy makers in time, could prove vital to the operation, resulting in timely implementation and desired outcomes.

In an effort to retain the productivity, the analysts sitting in the intelligence wings needs to produce timely intelligence keeping in mind the needs of local law enforcement agencies. This will forfeit the unnecessary flow of information, forcing the necessary agency to provide necessary operational oriented information to the local law enforcement.

It is important for domestic and external security agencies to address a large percentage of their attention on “strengthening human intelligence” which plays a vital role in separating “essential from immediate and urgent”. Moreover, policy makers must address their attention on the need to strengthen training the “best and the brightest” force within the intelligence community.


The choice of relying on “adequate” intelligence inputs coupled with the influx of information from the media, makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies to draft a proper response. Furthermore, allowing access to media reports which have greater access on the scene questions the “deployment” policy of the local law enforcement agency. Coupled with the scenario of multiple shooting incidents and direct armed confrontation, the first responder begins to function with his instincts plus the information and skill the individual has received during trainings. This training in particular which the first responder uses during a stressful atmosphere needs to be evaluated, evolved in the light of non-traditional mechanism employed by militant factions. Furthermore, this training needs to be further assessed in accordance with tactical levels in the light of “actionable intelligence” received by the HQ. This will further enhance and strengthen the response mechanism of local law enforcement agency, which in any case/scenario are the first responders at the scene. Armed with necessary technical support and training, a mobile unit for round the clock intelligence further enhances the ability of law enforcement.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Anant Mishra

is a security analyst with expertise in counter-insurgency and counter-terror operations. His policy analysis has featured in national and international journals and conferences on security affairs.

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