- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 14, 2001

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey told a congressional panel yesterday that increased coordination and communication between federal and local authorities is needed when addressing crime, including terrorism.
"I believe that [intelligence officials] are giving me all the information they are allowed to give me, but that does not mean that I am getting all the information I need," Chief Ramsey told members the Government Reform Committee during a hearing on emergency preparedness.
"I don't need to know the source of information, I just need to know it's credible. I have another responsibility for neighborhoods in my city, and if I don't have the information to justify why [police resources are being used to protect federal areas instead of all of the District], it's hard."
Chief Ramsey was joined by other police chiefs and officials from other cities and representatives from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the FBI.
State and local officials argued they are the first lines of homeland defense and should be given whatever clearance is needed to secure information to protect their areas. Pictures of wanted criminals or easy access to a national clearinghouse for information on criminals would be a big help, they said.
"There is no federal fire department, and 911 does not ring in either the national or state capitals," said Scott L. King, mayor of Gary, Ind., and co-chairman of the Federal-Local Law Enforcement Task Force of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Chief Ramsey told the committee it is difficult for his department when officers assigned to joint task force committees, particularly if they pertain to terrorism, are given access to classified information, but he is not.
"It adds to the confusion because we are supposed to go on the highest level of alert, but honestly, I don't know if we can go any higher if we don't have any concrete information," Chief Ramsey said. Ultimately, it all comes down to trust, he said.
Localities have different rules regarding investigations and intelligence. As a result, often the local departments and the federal departments are caught in battles over who can know what and when.
We need to "abandon the turf wars," said William Dwyer, chief of the Farmington Hills Police Department in Michigan.
Federal officials agreed more communication was needed, but disagreed that local authorities were being left in the dark.
Presently, they pointed out, there are several organizations that allow for coordination between law enforcement agencies, including the Regional Information Sharing System (RISS) and the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC). RISS, which has six field offices, is the only nationwide, multijurisdictional criminal-intelligence-sharing system operated by and for local and state law enforcement agencies. EPIC is a national clearinghouse for intelligence and analysis. Finally, the FBI is considering opening up to eight additional joint terrorism task force field offices around the country, including Baltimore and Norfolk.
The one area both sides agreed on was the new Office of Homeland Security, headed by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, would be the best place to coordinate the different needs of agencies.
"Someone needs to be the referee for these turf battles," Chief Ramsey said. "If he is not given the authority, he's useless."


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