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Commentary By Tim Connors

Iran & the NYPD: New Age of Police Work

New age of police work

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently declared, "If the United States ventured into any aggression on Iran, Iran will retaliate by damaging U.S. interests worldwide twice as much as the U.S. may inflict on Iran."

Every police department in America should take notice—because Iran uses terrorism as a foreign-policy tool.

It's not just that the regime sponsors terror groups in other countries, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon: The Iranian Revolutionary Guard now claims to be training large numbers of suicide bombers for export in the event of an attack on Iran's nuclear program. The purported legions even paraded around Tehran last month wearing mock suicide belts.

One of the lessons of 9/11 is that we now live in a world without walls or barriers. As Thomas Friedman put it, globalization "is enabling each of us to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before. And at the same time, it is enabling the world to reach into each of us further, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before."

If the United States participates in military action against Iran, the homeland will be in play.

Since 9/11, many state police agencies and large-city police departments have built an array of intelli¬gence capabilities. The most notable are "fusion centers"—information hubs that collect data from police work a number of sources, then have representatives from a broad range of agencies comb the resulting sea of information, looking for indicators of a looming terrorist attack in their area.

But while some depart¬ments and agencies have made huge gains at such tasks, many or most need to get far better at analyzing, predicting and plan¬ning for threats that are farther out on the horizon.

In other words, state and local law enforcement across America needs to get far better at providing decision-makers the information needed to understand, these long-term threats—and to take precautions new.

The New jersey State Police, for example, has recognized conceptually the need to develop intelligence systems to address both short- and long-term threats. So it has made several organizational changes, begun training programs and adopted a systematic approach to understanding its operating environment and both cur¬rent threats and more likely potential ones.

More state and local law-enforcement agencies need to follow New Jersey's lead. Simply ignoring the future, deferring to the feds or waiting for threats to become obvious is no option. Think back to 1993, when the World Trade Center was bombed—the first time. Think how different things might have been if long-term analysis and planning were as much a part of the NYPD's capability in 1993 as it is today.

In the case of Iran, a state or local police intelligence group, supported by leaders who understand thegrowing inter-connectivity of global and local events, would take the Iranians at their word—and get a start now at analyzing the threat for their area, and planning how to counter it.

They might begin with four questions:

* What impact could Iranian surrogates such as Hezbollah have in the local area?

* What signals would indicate that Iranian suicide bombers have infiltrated the local area?

* What's the the potential for independent "sympathy attacks" (like the Ira¬nian immigrant who recently hurtled an SUV across his former college campus in North Carolina, injuring nine students)?

* What targets are these groups likely to attack, and what methods are they likely to use?

Once they've got a picture of the threat, decision-makers can identify intelli¬gence gaps—and dedicate assets to closing those gaps. They can plan out what to do if the threat becomes "active"—and see what capabilities they should beef up now, while they can. They might, for example, dedicate more resources to on-going investigations of Iranian-sponsored support cells already here, to get potential attackers off the streets faster; get beat cops more training on how to identify these Iranian surrogates—or redouble efforts to strengthen ties with ethnic communities where sympathy attackers are likely to reside.

The point is to take mea¬sures now to prevent a fu¬ture catastrophe, rather than to simply clean up the mess when it occurs. Police will always be first responders—but they can and should be first preventers, too.

Yes, the feds and other state and local agencies—and private groups, too—will be indispensable in understanding and addressing such threats. But law enforcement must take the lead. Those agencies that fail to plan and prepare now, do so at the peril of their own communities.