MIAMI – Police are planning "in-your-face" shows of force in public places, saying the random, high-profile security operations will keep terrorists guessing about where officers might be next.
Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez, who announced the program Monday, said as an example, officers might surround a bank, check the IDs of everyone going in and out, and hand out leaflets about terror threats.
"People are definitely going to notice it," he said. "We want that shock. We want that awe. But at the same time, we don't want people to feel their rights are being threatened. We need them to be our eyes and ears."
Howard Simon, executive director of ACLU of Florida, said the Miami initiative appears aimed at ensuring that people's rights are not violated.
"What we're dealing with is officers on street patrol, which is more effective and more consistent with the Constitution," Simon said. "We'll have to see how it is implemented."
The operations will keep terrorists off guard, Fernandez said. He said Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups plot attacks by putting places under surveillance and watching for flaws and patterns in security.
Police Chief John Timoney said there was no specific, credible threat of an imminent terror attack in Miami. But he said the city has repeatedly been mentioned in intelligence reports as a potential target.
Timoney said 14 of the 19 hijackers who took part in the Sept. 11 attacks lived in South Florida at various times and that other alleged terror cells have operated in the area.
Under the program, both uniformed and plainclothes police will ride buses and trains, while others will conduct longer-term surveillance operations.
Mary Ann Viverette, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said the Miami program is similar to those used for years during the holiday season to deter criminals at busy places such as shopping malls.
"We want people to feel they can go about their normal course of business, but we want them to be aware," said Viverette, the police chief in Gaithersburg, Md.
At Monday's Heat game against the New York Knicks, season ticket holder Tony Gonzalez, 34, said he wasn't worried about any potential violation of civil liberties.
"When you enter an arena or stadium at full capacity you just don't know who is going through the turnstiles," said Gonzalez, an attorney. "Everything that helps our security, I'm for it."