Local agencies seek assistance

Local public safety agencies are ill- prepared to respond to homeland security threats unless they receive help from the federal government, government officials said last week.

Because of their limited resources and limited reach, most local police departments will have to rely on others to fill in the gap with manpower and expertise, officials said at the Government Symposium on Information Sharing and Homeland Security in Philadelphia.

Providing timely intelligence information that local officials can use to prepare for or respond to incidents is the most obvious way the federal government can help, said Jose Cordero, chief of the Newton, Mass., Police Department. "We need to have intelligence information that can have meaningful application in our community," he said.

Local officials also need real-time access to expert advice during incidents, Cordero said. And this resource must be available to every local official, not just those in areas with the most money or the best technology, he said.

The federal government should also help by setting broad technology standards, said William Casey, deputy chief of police in Boston.

In some cases, such as determining the communications spectrum standards for emergency communications, only the federal government can legally set the standards. And for most technologies, only the federal government can set broad standards that will be accepted by all so "even if we're not all on the same page, we are at least in the same book," Casey said.

The federal government can also help by vetting the numerous technology solutions that industry is offering in the homeland security space, he said. State and local agencies simply lack the resources to test new products to find the middle ground between cutting-edge technology and products that would truly do what first responders need, he said.

"We don't know where [that balance] is, and we can't test all this equipment," Casey said.

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