House reviews anti-terror training

National counterterrorism training has helped New York's 37,000 police officers, but the city wants to explore more computer-based programs.

But they can't do it yet, said New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

"The programs haven’t really been developed," Kelly said. “Some of them have to be tailored to us. We’re moving in that direction, but we really haven’t done anything significant."

During a break today from his testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee's Emergency Preparedness, Science and Technology Subcommittee, Kelly said his department has received many proposals but hasn't seen anything that would help the New York City Police Department.

He was in Washington, D.C., to talk to the House subcommittee about first responder training.

Kelly, who heads the nation’s largest police department, provided subcommittee members with an overview of officers’ training, problems and associated costs.

Today's hearing was the beginning of a comprehensive review of first responder training that would examine concerns about its effectiveness, possible duplication, and lack of coordination among federal agencies, said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.).

Coordinating federal anti-terrorism training for first responders isn't as easy it sounds, said Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. At least seven federal departments offer hundreds of training courses, Cox said.

Within DHS, even the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness (OSLGCP) doesn't have a monopoly on training. That could result in duplication, inefficiency and confusion, Cox said. Other lawmakers said they are concerned about the lack of national training standards.

For the most part, Kelly provided favorable reviews of training his officers received, but some programs could be consolidated he said, adding that several training programs should be self-certified, rather than put through a slow federal process for certification. Some national training standards should be applied to provide consistency nationwide, Kelly said.

"We are using a lot of the skills, so in a way, we are able to judge of the training almost on a daily basis," he said. NYPD has a lot of contact with the Office of Domestic Preparedness, which is part of the OSLGCP, but Kelly said he wasn't aware of any formal group there discussing or developing how first responders should be trained nationwide.

In addition to its 37,000 uniformed police, Kelly's department has about 15,000 civilian employees. About 1,000 police officers have been redeployed for counterterrorism duties. In January 2002, the department started a Counter Terrorism Bureau, which has more than 250 officers assigned to it, and has expanded its Intelligence Division for prevention efforts.

"The result is that New York City has never been better prepared to defend itself from a terrorist threat," he said. "Still, all of our preparations come at a steep price, about $178 million per year to maintain our daily counterterrorism and intelligence activities. I want to emphasize these are ongoing operational costs to defend the city, not to mention reassignment of 1,000 police officers to counterterrorism duties."

NYPD want DHS to help with intelligence training, including honing analysts' skills in conducting link analysis and terrorist group identification, improving analysts' abilities to identify intelligence gaps and instruction for investigative personnel in debriefing skills.

Kelly said he wants to supplement, not supplant, federal intelligence activities. He characterized information sharing between his department and federal agencies as generally good.

Meanwhile, Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.), asked if NYPD has a mechanism for tipping off its intelligence division that somebody is accessing public records to learn about structures such as the Brooklyn Bridge that could be used for a potential terrorist attack.

Kelly said no such mechanism existed. He said with a vast amount of information available on the Internet, but there is no potential way of finding out who is accessing what type of data.

"I can't think of any reasonable, practical way of patrolling the flow of information," he said. "It's just the reality of the world we live in and I can't think of a practical way, quite frankly, of addressing that."

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