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The department’s intelligence branch uses a “hunt-and-pursue” strategy employing analysts who study data collected by police and networks of recruited informants and other surveillance to identify groups or people planning attacks. Police forces then act to disrupt the operations.

Chief Downing said he is active in a public outreach program to Muslim communities designed to counteract what he termed the “motivational aspects” of terrorism.

“We spend an enormous amount of time observing prayer, going to festivals, going to events, showing that we are not just asking for these communities for a buy-in, but we want enrollment, participation,” Chief Downing said.

“We spend a lot of time explaining: ‘You live in this country, you’re free to worship how you like to worship, and we protect the sacred text of the Koran, the sacred text of the Torah, and we protect the sacred text of the Bible. And what we need you to do is partner with us in protecting the sacred text of our country, which is the Constitution which gives you these rights and protects you against bigotry and hatred and all those things,’” he said.

The objective is to win Muslim support for the U.S. system “which means supporting our Constitution and creating a bigger gap between the hard-core radicals and the critical mass of people,” he said. “And then we can weed out … the hard-core radicals through our hunt-and-pursue model.”

Chief Downing said police also send the clear message to Muslim communities that peaceful protests and activities are welcomed but “be assured that when it turns violent, we’re coming after you; we’re going to put you in prison.”

Chief Downing said he thinks Muslim communities ultimately hold the key to countering violent radical Islamists by holding out the greater promise of the U.S. system and its opportunities against the radicals’ idea offering of “a worldwide caliphate with a Muslim-dominated world and the implementation of Shariah law.”

“I think you’re beginning to see large parts of the community, critical mass of the community saying ‘al Qaeda? what do they represent? They kill more Muslims than they do non-Muslims,’” Chief Downing said.

One sign of success is the Muslim community’s recent adoption of the LAPD’s IWatch tip reporting program that encourages the general public to report to police on potential terrorist attack preparation. The program was embraced after Muslim community leaders first critiqued it and made some suggestions that were accepted by the department, Chief Downing said.

“And I think that’s kind of the essence of community policing, in that we’re not imposing this on you, we’re asking you to participate and make it better,” he said.

Chief Downing said LAPD’s tactical police operations capabilities include “amazing” forces, including SWAT units, direct-action teams, air support, counterassault teams and squads that specialize in disrupting vehicle bombs.

“We’ve got some equipment that is pretty incredible,” he said. “If a Mumbai-style attack happened here, it would not last 60 hours, I’ll tell you that. It would last 30 minutes and they might have them contained in a building.”