The Los Angeles Police Department has launched a new reporting system aimed to help connect dots that could uncover local terror plots _ a program that police departments in other major cities across the country hope to incorporate into their daily routines as well.
During the course of police officer's day, the officer could run across suspicious packages, people taking pictures of bridges or a car that looks out of place parked in front of a water tower.
Now LAPD officers _ from traffic cops to detectives _ are able to report suspicious activity on their investigative reports, which will later be catalogued by intelligence officers.
"Homeland security is really hometown security," Los Angeles police chief William Bratton said during an interview Friday. Standardizing this reporting system not only tells officers what to look for but helps connect dots that may have been overlooked in the past, he said.
Since the September 11 attacks, more local police agencies have been training officers to look for certain indicators of terrorist activity. Some fire departments have also provided this type of training.
But the LAPD's program is the first of its kind to incorporate these reports into a standard system that is used everyday, said John Cohen, senior adviser to the program manager for the Information Sharing Environment, a federal office within the national intelligence directorate.
The LAPD gave each suspicious activity a specific code. There are about 65 codes for activities ranging from surveillance to trespassing at sensitive places, said Joan McNamara, the LAPD commander who developed the system.
"It makes it simple for the cops," she said.
Police departments in Boston, Chicago and Miami-Dade, Fla., are meeting with LAPD officials to learn more about the system, said Michael Ronczkowski, a major in the Miami-Dade Police Department's homeland security bureau.
"This project here gives a look at all the things that would fall through the proverbial cracks," said Ronczkowski, who was in town for an intelligence conference.
Ronczkowski said if his officers have seen a certain suspicious activity consistently for a few months, the standard reporting system allows him to call LAPD and tell them about "suspicious activity" code 67, for example. When he does this, LAPD will know exactly what he is referring to and can tell him if their officers have seen the same thing.
This reporting system looks at the smallest levels of suspicious behavior and activities that could actually reveal terrorist "dry runs" that might have previously been overlooked, he said. Right now Miami-Dade is in the conceptual stage of adopting this new system, but Ronczkowski said he anticipates rolling it out in his department by the end of the year.
Eventually, local police departments will share the suspicious activity reports with their regional intelligence sharing centers, known as "fusion" centers. And the centers will be able to share the information with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, said Cohen.
In developing the plan, the LAPD has worked with federal officials to ensure that the reporting system does not violate civil rights or civil liberties.
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