A Washington, D.C., police officer was on routine patrol when his cruiser’s radio reported an ominous situation: A suspicious car was parked near a large water tower, and a man had been seen sprinting from the area. The Washington Post says that to the officer, it seemed like a setup for a terrorist attack: The car could be rigged with a bomb and positioned to cut off the water supply.
The reaction was what D.C. police commanders had envisioned when they orchestrated the event, an unannounced anti-terrorism exercise held recently. Over the next three hours, several officers were graded and trained. The drills, which have been conducted in all seven city police districts, are intended to test how beat patrol officers respond to such emergencies. They have included scenarios like attacks on large events and assaults on mass-transit vehicles. The maneuvers often follow hours of classroom instruction on hazardous materials and terrorism preparedness. “The drills force managers to juggle resources,” said Commander Cathy Lanier of the police Special Operations Division. “They have to think on their feet. There is nobody giving them the answers.”