- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2001

The Metropolitan Police Department Synchronized Operations Command Center was rushed into service a week earlier than planned when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon a week ago.

The $7 million facility is designed to put officials from the federal government and area police agencies together in one room to monitor emergencies and gather intelligence throughout Washington. Authorities had hoped to have the facility operational in time to be used to monitor the demonstrations, since canceled, that were scheduled for the meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

"We got it up and running in an hour and a half," D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said. "It was certainly not ready to go up immediately, but a lot of hard work got it going. It was a functional command center. They did an incredible job."

He said the command center was useful in dispelling rumors of car bombs at the State Department and U.S. Capitol and countering reports that other aircraft were planning to crash into buildings in the city.

"There was a lot of information coming in that they had hijacked planes coming in, and we were able to find out if that was true," he said. "We found out we had fighter cover and there were no additional planes."

Chief Ramsey said the command center is necessary because Washington is the hub of the nation's government, and agencies need to be able to coordinate actions.

"We have everything coming in. The FBI and the Secret Service are putting in their databases. We have feeds coming in from the helicopter," he said.

It was only a matter of time before there would be an attack on Washington, Chief Ramsey said. "We timed it so it would be functional for IMF [demonstrations] and with the thought in mind we would have it for any kind of emergency. We did not know we would be functional that soon."

Chief Ramsey said that the department responded quickly, and that he ordered officers to return to duty immediately after he saw the World Trade Center attacked.

He said the police department and the federal agencies were working on a terrorism response plan that was scheduled to be completed next year. That plan, he said, will be put together quicker since it is possible there may be other attacks.

"We want to be sure everyone is on the same page," Chief Ramsey said. "We already had emergency planning in April and June, and we were in the process of finishing it in 2002. It's not that we didn't have a plan. We had this place cleared out. The city was empty in a matter of hours."

During the last week, commuters have been faced with closed streets around the White House and the Capitol, but only E Street between 15th and 17th streets NW remained closed yesterday.

Chief Ramsey said many officers thought the department should be doing more to help out in New York after the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. He said he inquired and was told additional help was not needed.

Instead, he sent officers to Arlington County to assist in traffic and crowd control, and mobile crime scene officers were detailed to the FBI to search for evidence and victims. He also sent the Arlington department two canine units that search for victims.

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