- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark R. Warner said yesterday that Virginia needs a special division of state police to monitor and assess terrorist threats inside the state.
State law charges state police with handling potential terrorist threats, but it is handled as part of the criminal-intelligence unit. Mr. Warner said the Sept. 11 attacks show a separate division is needed. He said he'd leave it up to the police superintendent to staff the office.
In addition, Mr. Warner said he will make sure his secretary of public safety has experience in emergency-response matters, that he will revamp the state's 1950s-era emergency command center in Richmond, and that he will create an interagency terrorist task force to coordinate emergency-response efforts in the wake of an attack.
"The key here is to make sure that we coordinate, that we learn from past emergencies," he said in a telephone news conference with reporters.
Mr. Warner's Republican opponent, Mark L. Earley, has defined his candidacy in response to the attacks. As a former attorney general who has spent much of the campaign season talking about public safety, Mr. Earley says he's the best candidate to keep the state on course in terms of safety.
His campaign sees Mr. Warner's plans yesterday as a response to all of the attention Mr. Earley has given the issue. But Earley spokesman David Botkins said Mr. Earley's record is already established.
"Leadership is about getting it right the first time, and Virginians want experienced leadership they know and trust," he said.
Mr. Warner said he's not a newcomer to public-safety issues, and he pointed to several news conferences he's given to highlight staffing problems with the state police and what he saw as funding shortfalls for local sheriffs' departments.
"These are issues that I have been focusing on throughout the campaign when I raised these issues in August on the state police when we raised the issues earlier this month in terms of the hiring freeze on deputy sheriffs, on the backlog on DNA testing," he said.
Mr. Warner said his plans aren't meant to be a criticism of current Gov. James S. Gilmore III, whom he praised several times for his handling of the attacks.
"What I'm laying out here is how we go forward from this time. I'm not sure any American could have, or would have, predicted the incidents of Sept. 11," he said.

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