Guest Commentary by John Skipper, Lieutenant with the Redondo Beach PD.
Lieutenant Skipper and Mr. Webb describe an example of how creating a non-profit foundation can help local law enforcement respond to the threat of terrorism.
Shortly after September 11, 2001 the Chiefs of Police for nine cities in southwest Los Angeles County (known locally as the South Bay) created a committee to study and make recommendations related to the proper local law enforcement response to terrorism.
Members of the committee quickly recognized that a proper response would require more resources than local budgets could handle. For example, one local city was unable to obtain the use of an explosive detection canine shortly after September 11th because the L.A. Sheriff's Department, which normally responds to such requests, simply did not own enough dogs to be able to respond to the many calls for assistance coming in at that time. Although the committee eventually determined that the South Bay should build its own capacity to respond to suspected or confirmed terrorist activity, the question remained as to how individual departments would pay for that capacity.
Prior to September 11th, most local agencies had very small terrorism prevention and response budgets. The priorities of law enforcement agencies nationwide changed drastically after the attacks that day. Suddenly, training, equipment, and the re-allocation of manpower came into focus.
In order to meet the new budgetary demands, several committee members joined forces -- and with the help of a local law firm -- developed a way to help raise some of the needed resources.
This group, with the law firm working "pro bono", formed a non-profit corporation in December, 2002, called The Foundation for Combating Terrorism and Transnational Crime. The goal of this corporation is to partner with Southern California law enforcement agencies in order to develop an effective response to the threat of terrorism and transnational crime - criminal activity that crosses international borders, violating the laws of one or more countries. The corporation hopes to do this by providing assistance to local law enforcement in the form of funds, equipment and training.
Through initial donations, the foundation has completed the following projects to date:
The purchase of three explosive detecting canines. One dog has been donated to each the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Arson and Explosives Unit, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Los Angeles Unified School District Police Department.
The purchase of $11,000 worth of protective equipment to be used by the South Bay Platoons (a multi-jurisdictional emergency response unit made up of law enforcement personnel from the nine South Bay cities) to respond to incidents that potentially involve weapons of mass destruction.
The purchase of scuba diving equipment for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Arson and Explosives Dive Team. Members of the team acknowledged that the acquisition of this much needed equipment would not have been possible without the donation of $5,000 from the foundation.
The foundation has assisted, coordinated, and funded international law enforcement exchanges with law enforcement officers from Northern Ireland and Spain. These exchanges are for the purpose of studying the anti- and counter- terrorism techniques of agencies that have a long history of dealing with terrorism.
The foundation's status as an independent 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) charitable foundation has enabled it to bypass bureaucratic obstacles in the acquisition of needed anti-terrorism resources. The non-profit approach to acquiring these resources is also more beneficial than an agency's acceptance of direct donations because:
It avoids real or perceived conflicts of interest.
It prevents any false expectation on the behalf of individual donors.
It can help ensure that donations are used for specified purposes rather than for meeting other budgetary shortfalls.
Its structure more easily accommodates joint efforts to raise funds by more than one city and cooperative partnerships between governmental agencies and the private sector.
The foundation also has many other worthwhile projects in mind that will aid our local law enforcement agencies to better train and equip officers to deal with acts of terrorism. The list of unmet needs is extensive and rapidly evolving. As we learn what local anti-terrorist efforts will and will not receive federal funding, that list will change. For example, funding for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Arson and Explosives Dive Team came from the foundation after it was determined that funding was unavailable from the agency budget OR any other outside grant.
Given the current budget difficulties and the persistence of bureaucratic obstacles it will be even more difficult than usual to identify adequate funding for the new challenges local law enforcement now face. However, as these are extraordinary times we simply can't allow the ordinary roadblocks to prevent our communities from being as prepared as possible. The foundation has helped us stay prepared.
Law enforcement officials interested in establishing a similar foundation in their area can contact The Foundation for Combating Terrorism and Transnational Crime at (310) 536-7850 or visit our web site.
Lieutenant John Skipper has served in law enforcement for 29 years, first with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dept. and with the Redondo Beach, CA, Police Department since 1977. The founder and president of the Foundation for Combating Terrorism and Transnational Crime, he has been extensively involved in developing a regional model for homeland security since the events of September 11, 2001.
Redondo Beach City Prosecutor Michael Webb has been a prosecutor for 16 years having previously served as a deputy city prosecutor and deputy district attorney. He is the co-founder of the Foundation for Combating Terrorism and Transnational Crime and has also been extensively involved in developing a regional model for Homeland Security since the events of September 11, 2001.
Lt. Skipper and City Prosecutor Webb developed and coordinated a local terrorism response plan that has been identified by the California POST, The U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Symposium (COPS), the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), and the National Council of Mayors as being a model plan for the local response to terrorism and was included in a COPS/PERF publication entitled "Protecting Your Community from Terrorism: Strategies for Local Law Enforcement."