D.C. police have put the city’s 4,000 officers on heightened alert as the United States weighs its options for a military strike against Syria.
A teletype distributed to the entire force urges officers to be vigilant for any sort of suspicious activity.
“With the increasing tensions in the Middle East and the possibility of United States military action against Syrian forces, members are reminded of the importance of maintaining a posture of readiness and vigilance in the performance of their duties,” states the teletype issued Thursday, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.
The internal message cautions officers to look out for individuals inquiring about security procedures at transportation hubs, multiple false alarms or fake emergency calls to the same or similar venues, discrete use of cameras or recording devices, suspicious activities in storage facilities or purchase of items that could be used to construct explosives.
“We stay at a pretty high level of alert anyway, but we are doing some additional things to step up our visibility and things that we normally do just at a time that there are some tensions going on,” Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said. “We’ve given them some specific focuses, some things to do and they’re out there and they’ll be on their toes.”
Extra precautions come as the United States prepares for the possibility of launching limited military strikes against Syria as punishment for President Bashar Assad’s suspected authorizing use of chemical weapons in attacks against civilians last week. A report released by the White House on Friday indicates that at least 1,429 people were killed during attacks on 12 locations in the Damascus area.
President Obama on Saturday said he believes the United States should take military action against Syria but that he will first seek congressional authorization.
Scores of demonstrators, supporting and opposing U.S. military action, gathered outside the White House on Saturday — the first in what likely will be a series of Syria-related protests around the city.
D.C. officials have received “no credible intelligence of any direct threats to the District,” Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Paul A. Quander Jr. said. Actions taken thus far by city agencies are simply an abundance of caution, he said.
Other police agencies operating in the District are also monitoring the developments abroad but had not increased security levels or closed any areas to the public.
“We told our officers to be more vigilant on their patrols and at monuments and memorials,” said Capt. Steven Booker of the U.S. Park Police. “We’re still maintaining the security that we have in place. We’re not bringing more units into the area until we get more credible information.”
Likewise, U.S. Capitol Police, which provides security for the Capitol campus have not changed its routine.
“We are just always at a high level of awareness,” Officer Shennell Antrobus, spokesman, said.