Every day, in the course of their duties, law-enforcement officers observe suspicious behaviors and receive reports from concerned civilians, private security and other government agencies. Previously, this information was generally stored at the local precinct and shared only within the agency as part of an incident reporting system.
Today, there are approximately 1.2 million firefighters and EMS professionals in the United States—more than law enforcement by half. These men and women respond to millions of calls every year, accessing thousands of commercial properties, businesses and residences.
Because of its broad reach across the community, this sector is well equipped to serve as a force multiplier to law enforcement, helping to protect communities through suspicious activity reporting (SAR).
To support SAR efforts by fire and EMS professionals, the Nationwide SAR Initiative (NSI) program management office (PMO) developed SAR awareness training that explains what constitutes suspicious behavior and the importance of sharing such observed behaviors with supervisors and law enforcement for follow-up and investigation.
The NSI has gathered established law-enforcement practices; from these, they've developed standards, policies and processes for law enforcement at all levels of government to gather, document, process, analyze and share information potentially related to terrorist activity.
These standards are based on behaviors that have been shown to be indicators of terrorism.
Other core components of the NSI include:
- Privacy, civil rights and civil liberties protections
- Community outreach
- A technology solution
All of these together make up a comprehensive program rooted in behaviors and focused on activities, not on individuals or people.
This comprehensive program has been implemented in state and major urban-area fusion centers across the country, as well as within the federal government and outreach has included the private sector.
The NSI training strategy was developed to increase the effectiveness of federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement in identifying, reporting, evaluating and sharing preincident terrorism indicators to prevent acts of terrorism. Separate training programs were developed for frontline officers, chief executives and fusion center analysts.
With these trainings now fully deployed, the NSI PMO is focusing on other key non-law-enforcement constituencies and hometown-security partners. Due to their direct relationship with the public, these groups can supplement law enforcement by identifying and reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement.