Ed Note: The following is one in a series of articles written by PoliceOne columnists in the wake of the recently completed IACP conference in San Diego. Check out the IACP Special Coverage page for complete and continuing coverage of the event. If you attended the IACP and want to share your thoughts or photos, please let us know by sending an email.
The FBI remains focused on counterterrorism efforts, FBI Director Robert Mueller told the audience of IACP attendees on Monday morning in San Diego. In remarks that emphasized themes of inter-agency collaboration, cooperation, and intelligence sharing, Mueller said that while preventing terrorism is the FBI’s number one priority, Americans need police to dismantle gangs, investigate white collar crimes, and provide every other necessary element of public safety.
“We realize that...your highest priority is keeping your communities safe,” he said.
“How do we protect the country from terrorism while at the same time protecting our communities from crime?” Mueller answered his own question a moment later by stating that the “only way to do that is through intelligence—determining what we know, what we don’t know, and finding ways to fill the gaps. Intelligence lets us target our finite resources where they will make the most difference to the safety of our communities.”
Mueller pointed to three examples of how intelligence is being gathered, analyzed, and shared across geographic and agency lines. He first spoke about the “one size fits all” geospatial mapping technology called Project PinPoint, which “allows us to combine and visually map crime data from a multitude of agencies—everything from shootings to sources, and from outstanding warrants to open investigations. The genius of mapping technology is that any crime data can be compared to any other investigative data set. And it is when we combine the FBI’s data with your data that we can view intelligence in a new light.”
While universal tools like geospatial mapping have a tremendous impact, Mueller also spoke about the need for “custom solutions” and illustrated this contention with the example of an effort in which the FBI is working Chicago police to combat gang violence. Because the increase in gang violence calls for a non-traditional approach, Mueller said, “it’s not enough to gather intelligence about the violent offenders; we have to interrupt that violence.”
Mueller said that “intelligence indicates that the MS-13 gang does not have much of a presence in Chicago. That’s good news—but we cannot be satisfied until we understand why that is, where they are instead, and where the threat might next emerge. We do not want to have to form another task force five years down the road to combat a threat we could have anticipated.”
The FBI has also begin using a process similar COMPSTAT to map key threats from region to region, which Mueller said “gives us a better picture of what we know and what we don’t know, and helps us drive accountability.”
Toward the conclusion of his remarks Mueller said that he believes (and tells Congress at every opportunity) that local law enforcement is the first line of defense against crime and terrorism. “While a great deal of important funding appropriately goes to the homeland security mission, not enough goes to your crime-fighting efforts. Our experience has proven that our strength lies in our partnerships. I have always advocated funding our joint task forces, where state and local law enforcement play a crucial role...because the FBI relies on your eyes and ears and expertise as we work together to prevent both crime and terrorism.”