Sheriff Lee Baca of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office wants a seat at the federal policymaking table when it comes to issues of protecting the homeland and fighting terrorism.
And that doesn’t just include policies that center around federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement issues. Police departments have a lot to contribute to the international fight against terrorism and should be able to participate in big picture strategy discussions that shape U.S. diplomacy and international relations, he said at a Heritage Foundation talk.
“I’m not convinced that the federal government knows what to do with its police,” he said.
Police agencies can do a better job of combating extremism than armed forces, he said. Militaries are “blunt instruments.” They can eliminate a terrorist, but their weapons often kill bystanders, he added. That just begets more hatred toward the United States. Law enforcement officers, on the other hand, are skilled at investigations and know how to arrest a subject “without wiping out five other people,” he said.
That’s why he has taken his own initiative to build ties between his police department and those of other nations. He has visited departments in Israel, Jordon and Pakistan, and has hosted a conference of Middle East police chiefs in Los Angeles.
“Ever since the [Department of Homeland Security] has been stood up, I’ve been waiting for instructions,” he said. He’s received some advice, “but not much,” he said.
Meanwhile, U.S. law enforcement officials need to be part of the dialogue in Washington when it comes to formulating counterterrorism policies. Currently, they are allowed to comment on proposed federal policies, but they not invited to the discussions when the policies are being hashed out, he said.