12/15/2004

Kansas City Police Get $216K Homeland Security Grant to Conduct Anti-Terrorism Training

By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell, Kansas City Star

Making residents aware of how terrorism might creep into local neighborhoods is the aim of a new program offered by the Kansas City, Kan., police department. The department received a $216,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to conduct State, Local Anti-Terrorism Training, or S.L.A.T.T., and to conduct surveys of areas the government thinks that terrorists may target.

The police department trained 25 community policing officers to deliver the training to 150 neighborhood groups, but they only have a month to do it; the grant will expire at the end of December. The grant funds are used to pay the officers' overtime for conducting the training. As of last week, the department had conducted about a dozen training sessions.

"This program has the roots in the philosophy that people know their neighbors and neighborhoods, as they did in times past," said Capt. James Brown, research and development unit commander for the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department. 'We want to give our citizens as much knowledge as possible so they may better protect themselves. We are two steps ahead of terrorists when our citizens get training on what to look for.

The S.L.A.T.T. training involves an officer explaining the history of terrorist events so that people may better understand what motivates terrorists.

"People may think that terrorists want to cause property damage, when their motives are really to disrupt our everyday lives," said Brown. "It's what will cause the biggest shock factor for the public."

The officer also describes awareness strategies for citizens to identify potential terrorist activity in their neighborhood.

"We help citizens identify what suspicious activities to look for," said Brown. "People know when something isn't right in their neighborhood and many times, they don't call the police. But post 9-11, more citizens are getting involved."

Brown said one example might be noticing suspicious vehicles parked near a power plant or substation.

"If neighbors don't call us, chances are we wouldn't happen by and find it," said Brown.

Paul Soptick, president of Wyandotte Countians Against Crime and chairman of the Neighborhood Crime Prevention Patrol, said the training makes people more aware of some of the problems society faces today.

"Everyone needs to be aware of what we, as citizens on the street, can do," Soptick said. "It's more effective when as many people are exposed to the training as possible."

Brown said the training is not meant to teach 'Big Brother” tactics and that the department is sensitive to the fact that Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., have a diverse population, which includes many immigrants.

"We haven't experienced any anti-immigration backlash," Brown said. "I think the reason for that is that we have had a very diverse population for awhile and our residents know how to get along well with each other."

He said the department isn't afraid that more people will be calling in false alarms.

"We would rather go check out something and have it be nothing than have something happen and for people to know about it and not have called," Brown said.

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