Law enforcement in the United States is “dysfunctional” in policing terrorism, says Miami Police Chief John Timoney. The country has 18,000 separate law enforcement agencies, and this inhibits a unified effort to anticipate terrorist acts or respond effectively to them, Timoney told Crime & Justice News. Timoney is a host of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) convention, which is being held this week in Miami Beach. Timoney did not call for consolidation of police agencies, saying that the American public is resistant to the idea of central policing authority. Law enforcement must “do the best we can” by participating in the 103 joint terrorism task forces with federal, state and local participation. Timoney said “it is not clear to me who is in charge” of the federal antiterror effort. He cited the parallel duties of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and the new national intelligence director, John Negroponte, both of whom were scheduled to speak to IACP Tuesday.
Timoney, a former Philadelphia police commissioner and New York City police official, said U.S. law enforcement is “more professional, less brutal and less racist” than it was in past generations. He noted that New York City officers formerly were involved in fatal shootings of up to 100 citizens yearly; that number is down to a dozen. Commenting on local response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Timoney said it may not be feasible to plan mass evacuations from major urban areas. He noted that millions could not be evacuated from the Miami area because of a lack of highway capacity. Rather, people could stay in shelters and sturdy buildings. He called the New Orleans hurricane experience “an aberration.”