Terrorism concerns have reshaped local policing in the decade since 9/11, says the Los Angeles Times. From the New York Police Department to small rural sheriff’s departments, agencies have added counter-terrorism to their traditional crime-fighting duties — a shift that has cost billions of dollars and changed not just the equipment police use, but the way they approach law enforcement. Police officers monitor extremist chat rooms, study the tactics and weaponry of the Taliban and Iraqi insurgents, and travel to Muslim countries to develop their own intelligence.
New York has more than 1,000 officers engaged in counter-terrorism, including a dozen based overseas. It recruits foreign-born New Yorkers and trains them in secret for undercover work. In Los Angeles, 700 police officers work in the Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau, including some who speak Urdu and Arabic. That’s more than twice as many officers as are assigned to any police station in the city, even those in the highest-crime areas. Local police team up with federal authorities at 72 “fusion centers” around the U.S., where experts from an alphabet soup of agencies work in adjoining cubicles to analyze “suspicious activity reports.” They look for unusual trends, unexpected behaviors, and other potential clues that deserve further investigation. “I would sum it up in one quick sentence, and that is: Traditionally law enforcement has not had any direct responsibility for national security, and now we do,” said Michael Grossman, chief of the homeland security division for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.