THE PERFECT STORM
February 9, 2011 By GTI President Chadd Harbaugh
I sincerely hope I am wrong. However, I have been in the law enforcement / military industry my entire adult life and have been mostly accurate on both private and publicly made predictions of what will occur within our industry. The world seems to be at a boiling point and I am afraid that the violence we have seen recently is going to get much worse.
It doesn't take a sage to forecast future problems based upon what is happening within the U.S. and other countries and regions throughout the world that can have a dramatic impact on our security and society.
America faces two huge, interlinked problems. We see direct results from these problems and are facing increasing threats from worsening perceptions of them. Our unemployment rate is running at 9.4%, meaning that in excess of 14 million Americans are out of work (not including those looking for full-time jobs but settling for part-time work - if you include those numbers the figure is around 18%). Job creation is not even keeping pace with our current rise in population (and no one knows the true numbers of our population growth). The intertwined problem is our budget deficit. It is nearly 10% of GDP - obviously non-sustainable. As a result, interest payments are consuming 10% of total government revenue (also non-sustainable).
As a young officer I took the stance that I did not care about societal issues contributing to security or law enforcement problems. Sure I learned about them through my college career but I really didn't care about fixing them or even understanding them. Leave it to the politicians and social workers to figure out and I will deal with their impact as a cop. Crime goes up and my partners and I get busier, make more overtime money and gain more job security. I was only reactionary and that suited me just fine. Life was simpler this way.
Once I became a trainer who was responsible for creating solutions through curriculum by forecasting future need I was forced to change my mindset. I had to take many more variables into account and educate myself on issues that were not in my direct control. As I received promotions within law enforcement agencies and became responsible for training plans, budgets, grants and the development of divisions constructed to combat or improve certain problems I had to become even more aware of what was going on outside my world as a patrolman, detective or SWAT operator.
For the past seven years I have served as the president of a U.S. based law enforcement and military training organization that has international clientele. Through this role I have become more aware than ever about worldly events out of necessity. Through working with national and international officers and military personnel I have discovered that even though our wants, norms, finances, specific crimes, agency size and make up and nearly every other facet or characteristic that defines a jurisdiction's need is different, their basic problems and needs are the same, everywhere you go. I have learned that we are very much alike and that we are very much connected. Occurrences in the U.S. affect the rest of the world and vice versa.Perceptions
While not everyone agrees that perception is reality, law enforcement officers, soldiers and servicemen should understand the concept intuitively. Anyone who has been exposed to a deadly force threat in the real world or a perceived deadly force threat in training should "get it." It doesn't take a true deadly force threat to activate the human body's Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). We do this with officers daily as a training tool. You simply develop scenarios which drive the officer to perceive that a threat is real and their SNS activation occurs. We all know the results - increased heart rate, increased BP, perceptual narrowing, increased blood flow to appendages, auditory exclusion, etc… If our perception is reality (which we can prove through training events) why would anyone believe it wasn't true for the rest of the world? People's perception and beliefs drive behavior at the instinctual level. This behavior can be good or bad and it does not have to be based on a "reality."
Part of what drives criminal behavior is perception. If you perceive the world is out to kill you, you behave a certain way; we know this to be true (how many of you have dealt with a Meth addict on a 10 day binge?). Whether or not the world is falling apart today has yet to be determined but many people perceive it this way and that is what counts. This perception will lead to more erratic and violent behavior and unfortunately much of it will be directed at officers. Officers are one of the most visible reminders of government and anti-government sentiment is increasing, both within the U.S. and beyond its borders.Here is what we are seeing that affects us today:
Some people will argue that we have been faced with these same issues throughout recent history and today is no different, other than the fact that modern media publicizes and glorifies these events, saturating our daily news intake with them for financial gain. They are probably right. However, that may be the heart of the problem because as mentioned previously, it is the perception of the people that strikes fear and causes action / reaction.
I have been a news junkie for years, and I receive my daily news information from a variety of sources fully understanding the biases within most news sources. But, I can say without hesitation that I have seen a recent shift of intensity and frequency of events affecting Americans, both real and perceived.Officer Shootings
Here is what we have seen in the past 30 days with violence against police officers:
I have read articles and heard officers compare the recent violence to that of the days of the Black Panther Party. You need not search far to find multiple articles about the topic. The DOJ has recently taken notice and funded a study to determine the cause(s) much to the dismay of certain officers who intuitively know what the causes are.
What are we doing as an industry / profession to protect our officers from the increase in violence? To the credit of many jurisdictions, we are seeing increased in two man patrol units, and an increase in officer safety and awareness training. However, as a profession (as a whole) we are actually seeing officer layoffs, a decrease in training, abandonment of specialty units developed to counter terrorist groups and violence, moves to reduce minimum staffing requirements, etc… As violence is going up, agencies as a whole are becoming less prepared to deal with it. It begs the question "Is there a correlation here?"Drug Violence
In 2010, over 15,000 were killed in Mexico, marking the deadliest year since President Felipe Calderon took office in December of 2006 and launched his crackdown on drug gangs. Among these killings was the August 24th Zeta slaying of 72 men and women (migrant Ecuadoreans in the wrong place at the wrong time) in Tamaulipas, a northern state in Mexico. 1
As the violence in Mexico spreads to previously calm areas of the country and region the average Mexican (and foreign tourist) feels less safe. Public support for Mr. Calderon's crusade against the cartels is changing and the gains he has made yet may be lost.
As bad as Mexico seems to be, just south of their border things are statistically much worse. Central America can officially be called the most violent region on earth. Mexico's murder rate is 15 per 100,000 but the rates in other countries in the region are:
Central and South America are fertile breeding grounds for drug gangs, human and weapons smuggling, murder for hire, and other transnational criminal events. The countries listed above "are among the poorest in the Americas with income per head around $2,700, less than a third of that of Mexico. The $2.1 billion of drugs, arms and cash recovered in Guatemala during the first six months of last year was equivalent to 5% of the country's GDP." 2
The authorities are outnumbered and outgunned. "The profits generated by cocaine exports to the United States and Europe have allowed drug gangs to turn themselves into illegal armies. In some places, such as Mexico and Central America, this has turned a problem of policing into one of national security that becomes a grade on development and deters investments." "Marcelo Ebard, the mayor [Mexico City], says that in Mexico, 7 million young people neither study nor work: 'They can organize an army.'" 3
The intensity and frequency of the drug related violence is increasing and spreading. It already directly impacts Americans on the southern border and indirectly affects all Americans. It will get worse before it gets better. Again, what are we doing as a profession to prepare ourselves for the increase - Decreasing training, staffing, abandoning narcotics and gang units and performing high-risk operations with non-tactical units and staff. Certain agencies are headed for disaster.Inequality in the States
Among developed nations, the United States is one of the worst countries in the world for income inequality. 4 To make matters even more complicated, income inequality in America is growing while it is shrinking in the rest of the world.
As a capitalist society it is natural that there is a degree of inequality, however the "have not's" of the world typically relate issues with inequality as an argument in "fairness" and we have seen many protests throughout the world (including within our own country) based upon the issues of inequality and fairness.
Why should a police officer be concerned about inequality? When you combine the issues surrounding inequality, increased taxes and a stubbornly high unemployment rate, it doesn't take imagination to see the correlations to crime and the potential for increased violence.Domestic Terrorists
Last week, Congressman Bennie Thompson utilized a 2008 study conducted by University of Maryland Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism to warn Homeland Security Chairman Peter King that Islamic extremist groups were named a threat in 31 states and Neo-Nazi groups "posed a serious threat in 46 states." He went on to state, "Ideological-based violence of all kinds has been on the rise, according to a variety of indicators. As the incident in Spokane, Washington, this past Martin Luther King Day has shown, Islamic extremists aren't the only ones willing and able to utilize sophisticated devices intended to kill many Americans." 5
We have seen several recent examples that there are folks trying to do harm to U.S. citizens:
We have seen multiple cases in New York and other parts of the country in which there are firm ties directly between "street gangs" within the U.S. and terrorist organizations. (Please see GTI's announcement in the February, 2011 newsletter announcing Lou Savelli's gang / terrorist courses that will be available soon).
We have also seen a recent resurgence in right wing, homegrown extremist groups. We should expect to see an increase in the activities of anti-government militias in upcoming months.
Again, what are we doing as a profession to prepare for the increasing threat of terrorism on U.S. soil? As a whole, we are seeing decreasing training and abandonment of certain terrorism counteraction organizations within departments across the nation as overall staffing within jurisdiction decreases alongside non-UASI DHS funding.Religious Conflicts and Fears
The actual or perceptual rise in numbers and or power of one religious group has always caused concerns in other religious groups. If one of these religious groups is associated with extremist ideologies (either real or perceived) the concerns are obviously substantially increased and spread to secular organizations and individuals.
Recent articles paint a light of a changing world; a world that causes many people and governments grave concern.
"Are Muslims taking over the world or at minimum, transforming Europe into Eurabia? Whatever your hopes or fears for the future of the world's religions, a report published this week has plenty to stoke them. "The Future of the Global Muslim Population", produced by the Pew Research Center, a non-profit outfit based in Washington, DC, reckons Muslim numbers will soar from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030, in other words, from 23.4% to 26.4% of the global total.
The Muslim population growth will undoubtedly change what our world looks like in the future, sparking additional fear and hatred throughout many individuals and organizations throughout the world.International Terrorism
There are multiple instances of international terrorism that warrant an in-depth discussion in another venue. I will limit discussion to airport security, an issue that is a hot topic again, nearly 10 years after 9/11.
On January 24th, 2011 a suicide bomber killed 35 people and injured hundreds at Domodedovo, Moscow's busiest airport. This attack was the deadliest in any international airport.
The Domodedovo incident, combined with another suicide bombing in Russia in 2003, in which two female suicide bombers killed themselves and 16 others at a metal detector outside a rock concert, should be a shot over the bow of our own airport security.
We have immensely tightened security at U.S. airports since 2001 but in doing so have created huge lines in unsecured areas inside and immediately outside airports. These unsecured lines are crammed with travelers numbering hundreds to potentially thousands in certain international airports at critical times. They stand shoulder to shoulder and there is no room to move or escape danger quickly. Do we truly believe that a suicide attack in these areas would be any less debilitating than one that occurs 100 yards on the other side of the security checkpoint in which travelers are spaced out and continually moving? Would the logistical effects on national travel and the immediate impact to our stock market and economy be any less debilitating? I think not either case.
While we are seeing indications that airport security needs tightened yet again, the public seems to have little faith in the TSA and the negative sentiment is louder than ever in response to recent security measures implemented by them (body scanners).Middle Eastern Unrest
As a kid I often heard the language and saw the bumper stickers, "Peace in the Middle East." At the time it meant nothing to me. I applied my childish; "It doesn't effect me so why should I care?" logic. It amazes me how many adults today still have similar logic. There is a very real impact on everyone in the United States and things are as volatile now in the Middle East as they have been in my lifetime. Here is what is happening this week in the Middle East / East Africa region:
Those who are watching the Egyptian situation unravel and understand the implications of a non-secular government taking over in the region also understand the direct implications on the U.S. and our closest ally within the region, Israel.
There are those who say the current situation in the region is a testament to the strength of democracy. I agree. However, an overthrown government in any country of the region leaves a vacuum that can be filled by non-secular and / or potential extremist leaders causing instability that reaches well beyond the borders of the particular country. It is too early to be claiming a democratic victory. If the democratic process removes Mumbarak from power but an Islamic extremist gains his seat, we will see the opposite of democracy, we may see an Egypt run by Sharia Law.
Does the situation in Egypt affect you directly today? If you own a car or purchase any goods (at all) it does. While it is true that Egypt itself is a small oil producer, the Suez Canal is an important waterway for shipment of Middle Eastern oil. A detour around the southern tip of Africa adds around 6,000 miles to transit routes from the Middle East to Europe and the U.S. It doesn't matter if the Suez Canal remains open and safe, the speculation that it may not drives up the cost of oil as evident this week when oil prices broke through the $100 per barrel level for the first time in more than two years, amid market fears that Egypt's turmoil will hit oil flows, even though the canal is open as is the pipeline linking the Red Sea with the Mediterranean. The cost of oil directly impacts nearly everything else in today's economy and American citizens, government and businesses can scarcely afford such a blow.
Much like we saw earlier in the year with Tunisia, after 26 year old Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire, sparking Tunisia's revolution, the unrest in Egypt will likely act as a catalyst for unrest in other countries within the region. We should all be closely tracking this historic movement within the region.
And then there are the Arab-Israeli relations. "No war, no peace", is the usual state of affairs between Israel and its neighbors in the Middle East. But every time an attempt at Arab-Israeli peacemaking fails…the peace becomes a little more fragile and the danger of war increases.
War could be brought to the region by Iran's desire to acquire a nuclear weapon and Israel's desire to stop them at all costs. But there are many other scenarios to be wary of:
"But fear of Iran's nuclear program is only one of the fuses that could detonate an explosion at any moment. Another is the frantic arms race that has been under way since the inconclusive war in 2006 between Israel and Hizbullah, Iran's ally in Lebanon. Both sides have been intensively preparing for what each says will be a 'decisive' second round.
Of the 50,000 missiles listed above, some of the most troubling are the Zelza II missiles supplied by Syria and Iran. These weapons carry payloads of up to 600kg and are accurate to within 100 meters at a range of over 200km.
The United States' influence on the rest of the world has dwindled as a result of the financial crisis and rise of other emerging powers but it is receding more rapidly in the Middle East than any other region. Our Middle East policy is challenged everywhere throughout the region at every turn.Nuclear Threat
During the Cold War era, talk of nuclear threats was a prominent topic. The talk and unrest amongst much of our society is back. While the weapon or effect is the same, the threat via actors is different. Below are news headlines and cutouts from recent articles at the heart of today's nuclear threat:
Perhaps the most seriously disturbing nuclear threat comes from our regional ally, Pakistan. A shot was fired over our proverbial bow over two years ago involving their internal security of nuclear material from two separate sources. The recent assassination of a Punjab Governor brought these concerns to light. The warnings two years ago read:
The same organization that vets the staff of Pakistan's nuclear facilities/arsenal, the Personnel Reliability Program, vetted Pakistani police officer and bodyguard Malik Mumtaz Qadri, the gunman who murdered the Punjab state Governor he was sworn to protect, Salman Taseer on January 4, 2011.
Qadri murdered Taseer in a populated marketplace, firing more than 20 rounds. Though numerous other security officials were in the vicinity, not one of them moved in to stop Qadri. Qadri is lauded by Islamists and extremists for his actions. "This assassination raises further questions about the vetting process in the Pakistani security system. And it's worth remembering that on their list of potential threats to their nuclear assets, the United States is No. 1, and terrorists and religious fundamentalists are further down the line." (Ex-CIA official Bruce Riedel)
This problem casts light and doubt on the U.S. policy regarding Pakistan. "Central to the Obama administration's stance on Pakistan is its stated belief that the South Asian nation's growing nuclear arsenal could never be compromised by a member of the military establishment with ties to extremist groups such as the Taliban or al-Qaeda." 13
How close are the Pakistani allies to us anyway? According to The Pew Research Center's June 2010 report, only 8% of Pakistani's express any confidence in President Obama. "Barrack Obama's expected advantages are turning into handicaps in the war on terrorism." 14
And then there is North Korea who threatens a nuclear "holy war" against South Korea and its ally, the U.S. "To counter the enemy's intentional drive to push the situation to the brink of war, our revolutionary forces are making preparations to begin a holy war at any moment necessary based on nuclear deterrent." (Kim Yong-chun of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) 15Conclusion
While officers have little influence on any of the problems facing our society today, we can prepare for the fallout from them. We will continue to face these problems for an unknown time to come and I predict that as they escalate and public perception worsens, the threats to our officers will run a parallel course.
As our economy flounders, federal debt remains at unsustainable levels, unemployment remains at near record high, and taxes increase to pay for government services place further strain on economically impoverished businesses, law enforcement budgets and federal grants will be insufficient to handle day-to-day business operations for law enforcement agencies, let alone handle increased calls for service and/or emerging threats. It is a recipe for extremely difficult times to come in the best of scenarios.
There are no easy answers or solutions for our current predicament. While staff and leaders will be forced to role with the punches that are coming and hope for the best, please remember that "hope" is not a strategy. I encourage you to do your research and make your arguments for sustained or increased levels of funding for your agencies and divisions. There is no lack of material available to support your arguments. Unfortunately cash is king is this environment. You will not be able to win a fiscal fight with many city, county or state managers with "hope" or perceived need as your argument. You will have to demonstrate that the need is real and equate your argument for need to cost savings. Become intimately familiar with the term "ROI."
In fighting for your training and equipment budget, understand that realism, effectiveness and efficiency are much more critical than having the sexiest new toy on the block. Very few agencies do a great job of incorporating their advanced equipment into training and as a result, a lot of money has been wasted on equipment over the years. Contrary to popular belief, a piece of equipment is not a capability. Thoroughly understanding how to effectively utilize the equipment (and actually doing so) and developing tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) based upon the equipment is an acquired capability. It is the officer / operator on the ground that makes things happen, not the equipment.
Fight for your training and equipment budgets and utilize the fruits of that fight wisely. A Special Forces operator whom I have worked with since 1991 may have said it best when it comes to deciding between spending time, money and energy on equipment or training, "We can teach people how to throw a rock pretty damned well."
In your training, understand that outdated and dogmatic TTPs developed for a "typical" one or two suspect violent encounter may be completely ineffective against well trained, well-armed and determined groups of adversaries.
We are available at any time to assist you with sources and arguments for training budgets. Please don't hesitate to contact us for assistance and remember, just as "hope" is not a strategy, "success is not by chance."
1 "No Safe Passage", The Economist, September 11th-17th, 2010, pp. 36