As a Matter of Public Policy What Role Should Local Police Play in Terrorism Prevention?

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Local police have expanded their focus beyond regular crime inquiry and prevention to include homeland security operations and counterterrorism in areas where terrorist activity has been very high. After the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the US Department of Justice reported that law enforcement agencies had a difficult time finding a balance between their regular objectives and new investments. The perceived seriousness of the terrorist threats serves as an example of the disparities in how local police departments approach security. Local police are considered as the best security personnel that can prevent any terrorist activity. The reason is that the local police is able to offer the primary principles of policing such as information gathering, patrolling as well as surveillance of the terrorist suspects in the region of focus. They have the ability to establish and properly investigate the domestic terrorist threats. Besides, the local police forces can execute their tasks to counteract the sleeper cells and make sure there is proper protection of the vulnerable terrorist targets in the area. In many societies, the tasks of the local police cannot be replaced by any security agency since they investigate, and prevent any form of criminal acts (Braga, 2017). Therefore, as a matter of public policy, the local police play a vital role in the prevention of terrorism. This paper discusses the role of local police in terrorism prevention as a matter of public policy.

Role of Local Police in Terrorism Prevention

Patrolling is one of the key elements of policing. The local police are mainly responsible for carrying out constant patrols to ensure that there is an authorized presence that improves the security and creates a high level of confidence in the locality. The local police have to decide on the compassionate patrols during the daytime that can be elongated to the night in order to track certain sleeper cells, terror groups or suspects. In particular, to prevent any terrorist attack in the regions with the terror alerts, it is usually the duty of the local police to deluge the area of focus with different small groups of the patrol that work together to concentrate on the essential targets of terror attacks (Skoczylis, 2015). In any part of the world, the local police stations are the most trusted sources of information mainly because any plan to carry out terrorist attacks usually emanates from the locality. Therefore, the essential information that might contribute to the future terrorist attacks might be due to the information that the local police collected during the process of carrying out the duties associated with law enforcement. During patrols, the local police are able to identify the suspected terrorists who are looking for the ways to evade any form of detection and execute their attacks. The planned terrorist attacks are usually common in the regions where there is no heavy concentration of the counterterrorism efforts. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S, the number of local police is higher than that of the federal agents. Therefore, there is the high prospect that the local police might encounter any form of suspected terrorist activity that might be associated with terrorist activities. It shows that the local police are the first groups of individuals to swiftly respond to any form of terrorist activities (Braga, 2017).

In order to detect early terrorist activities, the most essential and basic way of collecting intelligence information by the local police is through the sources of human intelligence. For instance, there is nothing that can occur without the awareness of the police station in the area. Within the powers of the local police officers located in various police stations, they have the day to day presence in the area of focus to safeguard. Besides, they also have the knowledge of the villages and all parts of the city, hence, they can help prevent any act of terrorist activities that might be planned in the region. The local police usually have the opportunities to frequently talk with the members of the society as well as hawkers, street vendors, and the business community. They are also aware of any fragile and swift changes that might occur in the region under their authority. Therefore, as a matter of public policy, the local policy will gather all the vital information to ensure that they thwart any prospective terrorist attacks in the society. The primary principles of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) constitute carrying out surveillance on particular local areas to minimize the prospect of suspected criminals conducting criminal activities (Randol, 2013). The local police officers participate in various community planning programs such as CPTED so as to make sure there is future growth that would reduce any form of defenselessness to the terrorist attacks. According to CPTED’s theoretical thrust, the design to general behavioral effects might manipulate the physical environments. This plan will minimize any act of criminal activities and fears hence leading to the enhancement of life. Achievements of such behavioral effects might occur through the reduction of the susceptibility of its physical environment in order to support the criminal activity (Braga, 2017).

Due to the fact that the local police fully understand the area of jurisdiction and individuals living in the area, they normally dedicate themselves to establish the basic deterrent capabilities that would help to prevent any form of terrorist activity. Nevertheless, it might require the substantial changes to enhance the competence and abilities of the local police in dealing with terrorism. The alterations may include the implementation of various techniques such as community policing and intelligence-led policing (ILP). Some of the countries that employ such strategies include India, UK, and the United States Police Department. The main area of focus for the intelligence-led model of policing is mainly founded on the supervision, assessment, and identification of the current and future strategies for dealing with terrorist threats. Any information collected by the intelligence-led policing would be essential in directing local police operations in the field (Forst, 2014).

Through community policing, there are other local police members who are assigned to certain areas to ensure that they stay there for a specific duration so as to acquaint themselves with the local community and converse with them regarding the suspected individuals and other problems affecting the locality. For instance, the local police working at a particular police station understand the region better than other security agencies that are not residing in the region. Such kinds of local police might effectively understand the business people, local residents, and leaders hence they can seek help or gather some information in identifying some people who might commit terrorist activities. In the case of the city of Hyderabad, there have been instances where the local police in a single police station understand individuals staying in the city hence they can easily allocate the unauthorized immigrants from other countries such as Myanmar, Somalia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. The public policy requires the general public to cooperate with the security agencies in cases where security is a serious threat (Randol, 2013). As such, the local police will be able to understand the factors that influence individuals to be recruited to the terrorist groups. The local police officers should dedicate themselves to observing the community policy. Besides, the local police need not be loaded with other tasks while executing the community policing tasks (Forst, 2014).

Despite the fact that the inputs of intelligence are usually distributed to the local police working in various areas of focus, it actually does not change into action through the distribution of an adequate number of local police officers into other sensitive regions so as to safeguard susceptible targets and perform surveillance activities. The heavy duties of the local police dealing with tasks associated with the prevention of terrorism activities slow down due to the inadequate human resource. As a result, it increases the amount of work performed by the police officers who are already dealing with vast and hectic task schedules. For instance, in India, the number of policemen, police posts, and police stations is slightly over 1,478,888, 7,535, and 13,057 respectively (Forst, 2014). Therefore, the ratio of local police to individuals in the local area is very low, thus, imposing serious security threats such as terrorist attacks. In order to deal with terrorism and effectively prevent any form of terrorist attacks, it is essential for many local police stations to be developed. The number of local police should also be increased to ensure that intelligence collection is enhanced so as to identify individuals who might pose terror threats to the society. The local police officers should always be reshuffled after some time to ensure that there are no instances of bribing by the prospective terror suspects. The change in staff helps the local police to firmly deal and prevent terrorism in the locality. The local police will be assisted to deal with the global terrorist acts in case there is an increased consciousness about any prospective terrorist attacks. The local police officers have a public policy of protecting the interests of the locals by ensuring that acts of terrorist attacks are thwarted completely (Donkin, 2013).

Similarly to the traditional criminal acts, terrorism, is a serious criminal problem that affects many local societies. Terrorism is usually considered as shared task among the local, state, and federal governments. Actually, terrorism and traditional criminal activities are explicitly correlated. The domestic and international terrorist organizations are properly trained and organized hence it would require effective security agencies to manage them. Due to the similarities that exist between terrorism and the traditional crime, the U.S Department of Homeland security established a philosophy of community policing in order to deal with the issue of terrorism and other criminal activities linked to terrorism. It is vital for the local police to have the necessary skills of examining the terrorism issue, carry out analysis on the terrorist threat as well as establish essential responses that would help to prevent terrorism (Donkin, 2013).

In many cases around the globe, training of the local police supports the presumption that global terrorism is actually vital to them. Nevertheless, the majority of the local police concentrate on the assigned areas. It has actually changed that the local police officers have a vital role to help in the prevention of terrorism. For instance, there was an inquiry by the Los Angeles Police in which they established that the terrorist bombings were facilitated through a substantial amount of financing that led to the radicalization. Besides, there were other instances in which the local police could help to uncover any form of association that existed between the terrorist groups and those individuals who have committed criminal offenses. As a matter of public policy, the local police offer substantial help in the prevention of terrorist activities. The local police sometimes depend on the civilian patrols and the watchdog groups to offer assistance in tracking the suspected terrorist groups. It is essential for the local police investigating suspected terrorist activities to have external personnel that can help in the process. As a matter of fact, it does not need any vital skills for the local police to execute such acts. The local police undergo regular training on the modern counterterrorism techniques being implored by the terrorist groups hence they are ready to deal with any suspected terrorist attacker. The police department needs to undertake regular training on the best techniques that the government can use to manage domestic and global terrorism. Various organizations can also offer adequate support to the local police tasked with the duty of preventing terrorism in the society. Such measures are in line with the public policy that is supposed to offer actions that need to be undertaken based on the societal issues that affected the local community (Donkin, 2013).


The local police are rather important security agency because it is the main source of preventing terrorism. They neutralize any form of terrorist acts to help them establish an accommodating environment, thus, reassuring the safety of the population. Nevertheless, the poor response and lack of visibility are destroying the community policing roles of the local police. It makes the tasks of the local police in preventing any form of terrorist activity very effective. It is therefore essential for the local police not to be held responsible and guilty for any form of ineffectiveness and incompetence since they do not operate freely in different societies. The lack of manpower also makes the police not to execute their tasks freely. During any form of terrorist attack or disaster, it is vital for all the members of the society to cooperate and not prevent the local police from carrying out their work effectively. The swift expansions of the local police should also be enhanced to ensure that they continue to protect and prevent the residents of the society from any form of terrorist attacks.


Braga, A.A. (2017). Arrests, harm reduction, and police crime prevention policy. Criminology & Public Policy, 16(2), 369-373. doi:10.1111/1745-9133.12308

Donkin, S. (2013). Executive terrorism prevention and risk control. Springer Briefs in Criminology Preventing Terrorism and Controlling Risk, 79-89. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-8705-0_7

Forst, B. (2014). Local police and the “war” on terrorism. Oxford Handbooks Online. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199843886.013.003

Randol, B.M. (2013). An exploratory analysis of terrorism prevention and response preparedness efforts in municipal police departments in the United States: Which agencies participate in terrorism prevention and why? The Police Journal, 86(2), 158-181. doi:10.1350/pojo.2013.86.2.618

Skoczylis, J.J. (2015). Is contest innovative? Counter-terrorism and prevent. The Local Prevention of Terrorism, 45-73. doi:10.1057/9781137499011_3

July 15, 2023


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