Homeland Security Best Practices: A State’s Perspective

Center for National Policy, Washington, DC
March 25, 2009



Congressman Roemer:  You made some general comments about how important information sharing is.  The 9-11 Commission was very critical of government pre 9-11, saying that there were too many stovepipes, not enough sharing. 

From your experience as a Governor and as a Mayor, maybe you can talk about it a little bit.  We found that the Federal to State sharing was not good enough and then the State to local sharing was not good enough.  And then we found that these local police officers on the street in Baltimore are so good at what they do oftentimes, not only do they have trouble getting clearances, they’re a great source of information going back up the chain, too, and telling people, you know, what they’re discovering on the streets. 

How important is this information sharing and how do we continue to try to improve it?

Governor O’Malley:  I believe critically important.  You know, I was blessed to have been tutored, if you will, in management by Jack Maple, who was the Deputy Commissioner for Policing under Bratton in New York, during Mayor Guliani’s term.. He came to Baltimore and helped us take that ComStat approach to management and apply it across the board -- we created CitiStat, brand new word, C I T I S T A T.  If you punch it into Google now there’s 35,000-and some CitiStat entries.  We’ve now taken that and created StateStat.  I see some of the seeds of a FedStat blooming in some parts of our Federal Government.

But the first tenant of CitiStat, before the relentless follow-up, before the rapid deployment of resources, before the effective tactics and strategies -- the number one tenet is timely, accurate information shared by all.  And a lot of times, especially in law enforcement, but really in any human endeavor, people will repeat “timely, accurate information.” But they always like to leave off the “shared by all.”   It’s scary to share information and have it shared by all.  But that’s the only way the big human endeavors move forward.

Now, I know that there’s levels of security clearance, I know that you have to keep some amount of confidentiality as cases are being worked and at sensitive times.  And that’s not what I’m talking about. 

Let me talk to the State a little bit and then share with you some frustrations that we have just in interacting in the traditional sense with the Federal Government on this. 

In our State government, we have a lot of different silos as well.  And for years and years the police could never access one place where they could figure out all of the information they needed to know about somebody who was, say, on the Most Wanted list.  Or someone that was a suspect in a crime.  Or that they suspected was a witness to a violent crime. 

What we found was oftentimes our State Police, when they were recording information, and sometimes they are the primary responders in some of our more rural areas, they were still recording information on 3 by 5 cards.  Hardly the definition of a system that can be shared by all. 

 We had people going into our prisons for doing some pretty bad things on the outside, who will continue to do bad things if they can smuggle cell phones in and contraband.  And yet the amount of intelligence we received from local police when they were put in was next to nothing.  I mean, we’d have to go look for that ourselves.

Long story short, over the course of the last year we created something called our public safety Dashboard.  And that public safety Dashboard, using kind of simple technology that all of you use every day when you go onto MSN or Google or any of these other things -- granted, with some security checks, so that only law enforcement can log onto it -- that Dashboard now receives 10,000 hits per day from local law enforcement.  10,000 hits per day from local law enforcement. 

You know, a twist on “if you build it, they will come” …  If they’re using it, then you should have built it a long time ago. 

Put in a person’s name, he’s on probation, he should not even be allowed, as a term of his probation, to even own a gun and, yet, here he is popping up on another registry when I search his name, buying ammunition in a gun store.  Which then gives you -- depending on the case and the circumstances -- probable cause to get a warrant for violation of probation or whatever it might be, and go make that case and maybe get that person off the street or the other person of interest that you may, you know, have some information about. 

So we’ve put now into that public safety database or parole and probation, which the State runs, State police are a part of it.  We’re working on a child safety net for vulnerable children, the same sort of thing.  It’s the information shared by all.  I mean, it’s so tragic when you see some of the human beings, some of our fellow citizens put in body bags or worse, children put in body bags, and they have the fingerprints of seven or eight different State or county entities on them and, yet they die with their anonymity intact because we’re not good yet at sharing information. 

We’ve tried -- unsuccessfully -- to get the head of Federal Parole & Probation to put the Federal parolees and probationers that are in Maryland as a link, as part of our public safety Dashboard.  And, to date, they’ve been utterly either incapable or unwilling to do it.  And it’s hard to find the accountability for that. 

And I’ll make a call and try to shake that loose, but it shouldn’t be that hard.  And if it’s that hard -- for people that are in the game of selling narcotics and shooting competitors, if it’s that hard to share information on these folks that we know about, imagine how much harder it is to share information about much more anonymous suspected Al Queda cells where those guys specialize in not even getting traffic tickets for free of tripping and becoming part of the Federal database.

So we’ve got a long way to go, but I think there’s an opportunity here -- especially with the innovation, with the creativity, with the technology of what the internet has to offer.  And there’s some agencies that actually do a fantastic job of this overseas that then run into other challenges -- not just the case pride, but also the -- restrictions on the Federal Government being involved in local law enforcement.

Audience Question: Governor, first of all, I want to thank you for your excellent leadership in the State.  And I also want to urge you, as a person who has a home on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, to continue your strong leadership, because not only is it a national treasure, but it’s, as you will know, very important to our economy. 

Governor O’Malley: We created a program applying those ComStat principles of deploying the cops to the dots, in regard to the Chesapeake Bay.  It’s called BayStat and it breaks down the 10 major tributaries that feed through Maryland into the Bay.  And we measure not only the causes of the pollution in the Bay -- in terms of the nitrogen, the phosphorus, the sediment, but also the sources, the farming, the wastewater treatment plants, the run-off and the other things.  And the percentage that they affect the pollution within each tributary. 

And then we also have 22 solution sets, mitigation actions, and we show you in a Dashboard form where we are in terms of hitting our goal on cover crops.  Where we are in terms of investing in water and wastewater, where we are over time. 

And the final piece that’s on there on a website we call GreenPrint, where we’ve mapped down to a parcel by parcel basis and given an ecological ranking to every parcel within Maryland.  So that we can try through Program Open Space, Rural Legacy and the other things, to protect that essential minimum area of green lungs, green liver, green kidney that this ecological body needs to function. 

Audience Member:  I live in Connecticut, which is a tri-state area, just as you do.  And so I wondered how you see regional planning in tri-state areas.  Do you see progress there and how do you see the fusion centers working?  I think it surpasses the amount of states that we have today.  So I just wondered if you’ve seen any progress there. 

Governor O’Malley:  I think the regional planning is actually one of those areas that’s moved forward much more quickly than other areas.  And the reason for that being to a degree, we had already established sort of the pathways and the ability to do that around other events, whether it was mutual aid for our fire department’s responding to one another, etc….when the Pentagon was hit on the other side of the river, I think the first heavy equipment operators were actually from Maryland. 

For the inauguration, former Secretary of Homeland Security, Mr. Chertoff, pulled all of us together -- the Governor of Virginia, myself, and Mayor Fenty -- and we planned very, very effectively for that.  And really brought together a lot of staff, a lot of resources, and, very importantly, the political will to game out scenarios, figure out what was the best way not only to safeguard people, but also to manage the flow of traffic.  So I think that has worked well.

The fusion centers, I think, could be really, really great.  I think right now they’re a bit of a hodgepodge.  Some are better than others.  Places where you see the local investment in them and local law enforcement really taking ownership of them and taking them over, I think they work really, really well. 

The places where people send someone to sit in the fusion center because he or she hurt their knee and  can’t chase bad guys, they work really, really poorly. 

And it’s over that spectrum that you see these fusion centers.  I would say in New York you probably have a very, very good fusion centers.  You know, in our State we’re in the process of revamping some of our fusion centers to make them more regional.  In other words, to create one for the Baltimore Metro and then some in our more rural areas of the State who have other needs.

But also always striving to make them not just terrorism fusion centers, they’re all crimes.  And if you show that these can help bump up the clearance rate on homicides and burglaries and rapes and robberies, then you get people actually sharing the information and doing it.  If they go and they sit and they watch CNN for eight hours a day and wait for something bad to happen, then they don’t work.  And frankly, there’s not -- I don’t know that there’s a national standard yet to be applied to the fusion centers.  They very much reflect the will of the local political leadership. 

Audience Member:  The stimulus spending seems like a perfect vehicle to pump more money into homeland security and all the -- all the things that we talked about.  Did you get enough in the last package?  Are you looking for more stimulus spending or are you looking more for the regular revenue stream?  Or does it matter?

Governor O’Malley: The great thing about the Recovery & Reinvestment Act dollars is that most of it comes through existing government programs that already have formulas in place and that already have people in place to safeguard their integrity.  What a novel idea.  We’re using government again for the purpose for which it was intended. 

The Recovery & Reinvestment Act helped us with roughly $700 million this year in what had grown into a $1.9 billion hole in a $15 billion base.  We still had to go and cut $1.1 billion in order to make up the rest of the hole.  So Lord knows what we would have done if it had not come through. 

But it did not leave a whole lot of flexible, sort of paygo-capital to our bottom lines that would have allowed us to say announce $20 million to interoperability or $10 million for the bomb squad. 

Audience Member: I wanted to ask you, since I know, obviously, there's so much cargo that comes into this country through Maryland, what your thoughts are on the 100 percent screening mandate. 

Governor O'Malley:  I think it's one performance measure.  It's a goal that can be, I think, quickly achieved with technology in a cost effective, time effective way.  And I think we're pretty close to doing that at the Port of Baltimore.  At least to screen for radiological material.

To search every container is a real daunting and tremendous challenge.  To actually break down a container, to go through a container, is a really time intensive, labor intensive, land intensive -- and all ports are struggling for land.  I think that there's probably a lot more that we could do with K-9 units and dogs. 

There has not been the sort of concerted ramp-up for trained K-9, but there should be and could be.  We started to do it ourselves with our own kennel at the Department of Corrections, we built our own kennel, we're raising our own dogs to go after contraband inside our prisons.  But the dogs could probably help with a lot of that. 

I think on radiological, we should be going for 100 percent.  I think on X-ray screening we should be going for 100 percent.  And then I think we should be guided by the X-ray to do a much more intelligent job of screening the other. Until we see the cocaine and the heroin amounts start to dip that are coming into our country, I don't believe we've reached the tipping point in terms of real port security.


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