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ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Police forces throughout the country have been on heightened states of alert since September 11. What more can and should be done to respond to the Attorney General’s warning of last night? For that we turn to three chiefs of police: Bernard Parks of Los Angeles; Stan Knee of Austin, Texas; and William Finney of St. Paul, Minnesota; and to Police Commissioner John Timoney of Philadelphia. He’s attending an international chiefs of police convention in Toronto.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Chief Parks, take us through what happens when a warning like last night’s, like the warning last night comes into your office. In what form does it come and when did it come?
BERNARD PARKS, Los Angeles Police Chief: Basically it came through a variety of sources, our intelligence sources plus we monitored the local TV, CNN, but I think when those issues come about when the U.S. Attorney General makes those statements, you take them very seriously, and you ensure that all of your protocols are in place, that the special locations in your city are being monitored, our intelligence function is on the street monitoring what we consider targets and other kinds of issues. And so our entire department moves in a direction to begin to follow a protocol and a plan that we have put in place well before September 11th but certainly have fine tuned it since then.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I’m going to come back to that. Are you satisfied with the warning system? You said you heard about it on TV.
BERNARD PARKS: We’re satisfied in the sense that for the generalized nature of the information, we are satisfied that our local FBI office advised us in advance of the television, plus we have a terrorist task force that we have LAPD personnel with the FBI so that material came to us well in advance of the television, plus we monitored the television and the other materials. So we received it from a variety of sources.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Chief Finney, are you satisfied with the warning system and are you in general getting the information you need from federal authorities?
WILLIAM FINNEY, St. Paul Police Chief: I was contacted by the local special agent in charge here in the Minneapolis area St. Paul directly. Then about ten minutes later I saw it on CNN. I’m satisfied with that connection. I think that the federal and local and county authorities are working very, very well with each other as well as corresponding and interacting with our fire departments.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Chief Knee, are you getting the information you need?
STAN KNEE, Austin Police Chief: Yes, we are. We’re getting it in a timely fashion. We would like it to be more specific but we understand that in this business you get that information that you can pass on no matter how small that information is and you react to it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Commissioner Timoney, how about you? I’m asking this because some police chiefs have said they are hearing too much from TV and not so much from the federal officials.
JOHN TIMONEY, Philadelphia Police Commissioner: No. I think you get a general alert, which is fine, a heightened state of alert. And that’s all they have. We have to go with what they tell us. There’s a lack of specificity that causes some problems. But right now I think we can manage what we’re getting now, but you would like some more specifics.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What are the problems, Commissioner Timoney, that the lack of specificity causes?
JOHN TIMONEY: You know, I’ve met twice in the last ten days with Director Mueller. He’s convinced me that they are letting us know exactly what information they have. They’re not holding back. It’s just tough to get hard, credible information underground, if you will. But I mean I’m satisfied right now that they’re doing their best; they let us know what they can.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And what did your office do once that information came in, what changes?
JOHN TIMONEY: Well, I mean we’ve had a plan in effect since September 11th. It’s been refined, quite literally daily. In Philadelphia there are quite a few signature buildings, historic sites, the Liberty Bell, Constitution Hall. We have got the U.S. Mint, one of three in the United States is in Philadelphia, so places where, you know, a terrorist is going to strike. He’s not going to strike any building. There is going to be some symbolism involved. And so those buildings, the high-rise buildings get extra attention.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Chief Knee, what about you? What changed in Austin as a result of this warning? You were already on high alert, right?
STAN KNEE: Well, yes, we were. And we had already done an assessment of the city. We’re 240 square miles. We have a lot of sites that we feel are potential targets. And what this warning does is it increases the number of manpower out on the street and also we have the protocols that go into effect to ensure that we have communications as well as we have a command structure that can handle any situation that we come across.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So even though you were on high alert, you can go on higher alert?
STAN KNEE: Oh, yes, you can. Yes, you can.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And does a warning like this also bring more problems for you? Do you get a lot more anthrax scare calls, for example?
STAN KNEE: Well, we’re averaging, the high I think was about 70 in one day. We’re averaging about 40 — between 25 and 40 at this point. I think that it does heighten people’s concern. I’ve had a number of people contact me about trick or treating on Halloween — about going to the malls, the Internet. There’s a lot of hoaxes going around. And so I think that people are concerned. When we place the, on heightened alert, I think that they become even more concerned.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Chief Knee, what did you tell them when they ask you those questions?
STAN KNEE: I say that as the president has said, I think we should go on about our lives. I think that you should be cautious and you should be observant but I’m certainly not going to say we should give in to the terrorists and stay home and pull the shades down and lock the door.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Chief Finney, what changed in St. Paul as a result of this warning?
WILLIAM FINNEY: I think what changed in St. Paul is that the awareness by the public and the police department that we are in a crisis situation, that everyone needs to do their very, very best to respond. We in local police departments are very, very good and experts at responding. We need to know what it is we should be responding to. And so when we get more specificity about what it is, that will make our police officers feel better and certainly their administration. But we are receiving calls from our citizens. We are well trained. I think the morale is very, very high in the St. Paul Police Department. And now we’re waiting. We’re waiting to see what it is we need to do and we’ll put together the proper response when that happens.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But specifically, do you have more people, for example, guarding a bridge across the Mississippi right now?
WILLIAM FINNEY: We have certain target areas that we feel may be areas of interest for anyone who wants to do damage and we have higher alert and certainly more attention to those areas.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Chief Parks, what are you doing in Los Angeles?
BERNARD PARKS: We again had a plan in place for a number of weeks. We’ve completed our loop of information with our airport, our harbor. We’ve looked at all of the major facilities in our city. And we have a special location file, which we monitor and track those, such areas as temples and mosques and recreation facilities. But again we have not, in going into a heightened alert, we have not mobilized to cancel days off and to primarily extend our officers’ shifts. We’ve been very surgical in trying to put people where we think we can use them best. Our intelligence function has been expanded. They’re working expanded hours, but again we’re using our field forces really to monitor a great deal of the activity. Our information center is open for information from the public and our officers about intelligence information. So we’re assessing it as all of this information coming in. And we’re basically being flexible enough to address issues as they occur each day. We’re also combating crime on the street. So we cannot be so pulled towards this heightened alert that we’re not paying attention to the day-to-day crime.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I wanted to ask you about that, but before we get into how this is affecting fighting crime, give us a sense of the general situation in Los Angeles. For example, are you inundated right now with anthrax calls? How do you handle that?
BERNARD PARKS: We have had a large number of anthrax calls and also false bomb callouts. And those calls seem to be dissipating over time. We have spent a great deal of time educating the public regarding what their responsibilities are, what they can assess on their own. We’ve also put a great deal of information out about the hoaxes that are going on across the nation. I believe at this time our best efforts are spent on educating the public, precautionary activity and also being alert as it relates to our own systems and protocols. And so those are the three areas that we have put a great deal of energy into.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How can you do all this and still do the same kind of basic patrolling, basic crime fighting you were doing before?
BERNARD PARKS: Well, I think basically we believe in the fact that we have a generalist force, in that while people are out patrolling their area with crime analysis information to deal with those issues they’re also aware of all the things that are in their particular car assignment that may be locations or activities that should cause extra concern. We’re feeding them information from our intelligence resources as it comes in. And so a great deal of these protocols are in place regardless of the type of emergency, whether it’s an earthquake or a flood or whatever may impact the city of LA, our operational procedures are in place and we basically practice them and we respond to a great deal of activity in the city, demonstrations, and a variety of things on an ongoing basis. So these are not new protocols. The issues are somewhat new because we’re dealing with terrorism but our protocols are fairly basic and have been refined over time.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Commissioner Timoney, the New York Times reported Sunday that Philadelphia had more homicides last month than unusual, 37 instead of 25. Was that related, do you think?
JOHN TIMONEY: Yeah, I mean we wound up using quite literally hundreds of officers whose normal activity is narcotics, fighting the drug wars that had to be redeployed in uniform into Center City around historic buildings. And so for about a two or three week period — until we come up with an overall master plan, if you will, that will take us forward because this is going to be at least a year, probably a year-and-a-half, maybe two years. I don’t think we can sustain that type of effort that we began the first three weeks but we now have a pretty good system where we’re using extended tours and a combination of other protocols to get us in the long run to sustain the activity towards terrorism but also deal with the day-to-day violence around drugs and regular burglaries and stolen cars. We still have a job to do.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you need some help at the federal level to help you do all this?
JOHN TIMONEY: I’m convinced and I’ve been arguing from day one that there is an obligation on the part of the federal government whether they like it or not to help pay for this. We are the front line defense; we are the soldiers in the homeland defense. And we can clearly demarcate the monies, think of the overtime monies that we’re spending on this terrorism. My sense and my belief is that this should come out of the Department of Defense budget.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Chief Knee, what kind of help do you need to get the job done?
STAN KNEE: Well, certainly I agree with the others that it would be appropriate I think for the federal government to step in and start picking up some of the costs with regard to specialized equipment, for instance, that we’ll be purchasing for our first responders.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Like what? Give me an example.
STAN KNEE: Well, some of that equipment will be biochemical equipment that will protect the officers, who arrive first on the scene, should we have an incident. We’ll also increase our efforts to train the officers, which means bringing them in on overtime. It would be I think appropriate for the federal government to help us coordinate the training, the use of those experts to get the best training possible for the police officers. And I think that… I just can’t help but think that down the road, if this is a two-year project, that we’re going to need a continuation of the universal hiring grants that were given out during the COPS years — and to assist us in bringing on more personnel so that we can better sustain not only the crime fighting efforts and the community policing efforts but also this new mission of homeland defense.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Chief Finney, what kind of help do you need?
WILLIAM FINNEY: I certainly agree with the others. I do feel it’s a federal responsibility. And I think we need some dollars for training. Police officers are generalists. This is very, very specific. I think we need some help in identifying what to look for in terms of a terrorist. We know how to deal with the acts after they occur. We’re certainly prepared to do that. But we need more resources and equipment like what was stated by Chief Knee and Commissioner Timoney.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Gentlemen, thank you all very much. Sorry for interrupting you.