While the United States has not experienced a major terrorist attack
since September 11, 2001,
there have been continual terrorist attacks around the globe.According to the NationalCounterTerrorismCenters (NCTC) Worldwide Incident Tracking System (WITS)[i],
during 2004 there were only five terrorist incidents in the US (accounting for one injury).Conversely, during the same time period there
were 3,192 terrorist incidents worldwide, resulting in 6,060 deaths and 16,091 wounded
During 2004, 1,080
were killed by terrorists and another 1,370 police officers were wounded by
terrorists outside the US.Table one
represents the number of officers killed and wounded versus the total number of
people killed and wounded.The data
seems to suggest that police officers who are victims of a terrorist act are much
more likely to be killed (as opposed to wounded) than civilians who are victims
of a terrorist act.
Police officers becoming victims of
terrorist attacks appear to be a world-wide phenomenon.Table two represents a breakdown of those
attacks by region.The information
indicates, as we know, the Middle East and Southeast Asia are particularly dangerous areas.The third column of table two shows the
percentage of police officers who are victims of terrorism.It is interesting to note that while police
officers on average are targets of terrorism roughly 18.5 percent of the time
world-wide, they are slightly more than 11 percent of the total number of victims.
Terrorist Incidents 2004 by Region
Middle East/Persian Gulf
two incidents involving police officers in the North American/Caribbean region
**Data developed from the NCTC, WITS
though police officers may be targeted by terrorists, their training and/or
equipment may prevent them from becoming casualties.
The data from
outside the US seems to indicate that
officers are specifically targeted by terrorists.Like the US, many countries rely on internal
police organizations to pursue criminal investigations against terrorists.Simply put, the data indicates that police
officers worldwide are on the front line in the War Against Terror.They are the ones making arrests, guarding
critical facilities and responding to the scenes of terrorist acts.Indeed, a closer look at terrorist acts reveals
that among the incidents involving police officers, fatalities occur during attempts
to arrest terrorists[iii],
guard duty of critical facilities,[iv] response to situations[v], the conducting of routine
operations, such as traffic control[vi], and off-duty ambushes[vii].
It also appears
that police officers may be targeted because of their occupation.First, they are one of the most visible forms of civilian
government.Terrorists seeking to strike
at a government may view police officers as symbols of that government.Perhaps more importantly, the public views
police officers as symbols of order and peace. Recall that the definition of a terrorist act
involves striking at non-combatants in order to generate fear.It may be that police officers are
specifically targeted because citizens become even more fearful when they see
the people who are armed and charged with the responsibility of protecting the
community fall victim.
policing has not experienced anything close to the carnage of our brothers and
sisters worldwide, it may be instructive to use the information from those
attacks to attempt to determine likely circumstances and weapons that would be used
in an attack on police officers in other regions, then review tactics designed
to increase officer safety. Table three
classifies the attacks on police officers[viii]. Table four outlines
the weapons used by the terrorists.
According to the NCTC, on September 3, 2004, in KhakiForest, Giridih District, Jharkhand, India, militants detonated a bomb under a
police vehicle, killing five police officers and wounding three others[ix]. In the early 1970s certain domestic terrorist
groups (or militant groups as they were called at the time) detonated bombs
that were either placed on the ground underneath or attached to the
undercarriage of the police vehicle.One
attack involved members of a terrorist group taping a hand grenade to the gas
tank of a patrol vehicle while the officers were at lunch.An improvised device designed to pull the pin
would have been activated by the officers driving forward from their parking
spot.The officers lives were saved because
they drove backward out of the parking spot, unaware of the device[x].That incident led to the spread of the simple
tactic of officers looking under their vehicle before they entered it any time
they were away from the vehicle.This
tactic led to the discovery of other devices and is a simple way to foil this type
According to the
NCTC, on August 20, 2004, in Semdinli, Hakkari Province, Turkey, gunmen opened
fire on a Turkish police station, injuring two police officers[xi].Police stations have also been bombed[xii] and attacked with
military style weapons[xiii]; however, the most prevalent
type of weapon identified in all attacks was firearms (35%), followed by
explosive devices (34%).
All agencies should consider
implementing station defense plans and reviewing their station routines and structure
for weaknesses.On how many summer
nights have you found the back door to the station propped open?Can your desk officers be seen through a
plate glass door from the street?How
many police officers view desk duty as vacation from the street and do not wear
their Sam Browne or other duty equipment?During the 1960s and 1970s, police stations in the US were attacked by terrorist
groups.Revisiting the tactics and
procedures implemented during those times may be a good starting point for
improving station defense.
As we noted in
previous articles, it is important to view our preparation and planning for
terrorist incidents as all-hazards planning.The construction and remodeling of police stations should be conducted
under the umbrella of all-hazards planning that includes potential terrorist
attacks.A good starting point may be to
conduct a Needs Analysis of your station.Recall that a Needs Analysis involves the determination of likely
events, the state of current preparation and a determination of needs to
completely prepare.What could happen
and what could you do now to improve your response?
According to the
NCTC, on August 4, 2004, in Patnos, Agri Province, Turkey, unidentified gunmen fired at a
police vehicle, killing one police officer and injuring one other[xiv].It is clear from the data that ambush and
station attack are the two primary terrorist incidents aimed at police
officers.According to the NCTC data,
ambushes against police officers overseas generally take on two forms:An explosive device is detonated as the
police officers drive by, or gunmen assault the vehicle from positions of
concealment.In the US, we should consider two additional variations on the ambush.The
first variation is a false radio call that draws police officers into an ambush
zone.The second variation is a
terrorists committing a minor traffic violation in order to attack the officer
during the stop.
ambushes involves a re-examination of basic field tactics.During radio calls, officers should avoid
parking in front of the location, be mindful of people who may be acting as
lookouts, etc.For traffic stops,
officers should attempt to select the location of the stop, position their
vehicle tactically and be mindful of furtive movements by the traffic
violator.Countering all ambushes means
officers should know the difference between cover and concealment, practice moving
into the cone of fire and move quickly away from the police vehicle because
it is likely to draw fire. During Enforcement
According to the
NCTC, On February 17, 2004, in the morning, in the Zavodskoy District,
Groznyy, Chechnya, Russia, a bomb exploded during a search operation by OMON
(Special Forces Police Detachment) officers, injuring the deputy commander[xv].It is interesting to note that during
enforcement operations like serving warrants and making arrests, police
officers overseas seem to receive fewer injuries[xvi].A likely reason is that they are in a
heightened state of awareness and have pre-planned the operation.Both are extraordinarily valuable officer-survival
tips.Training, awareness and
preplanning are probably the best prevention.Indeed, when coupled with solid
field tactics and well-maintained equipment, a police officers survivability
According to the
NCTC, WITS, on June 17, 2004, in the Arghakhanchi District, Nepal, gunmen
fired upon a group of out-of-uniform police officers shopping at a local
bazaar, killing two officers and wounding two others[xvii].In another incident reported by the NCTC,
WITS, on November 2, 2004, at night, in the village of Litter, Pulwama,
Kashmir, India, armed militants shot and killed a police officer in his home[xviii].Being off-duty should be the perfect
undercover assignment.You blend in
completely with everyone in your personal community.Avoiding wearing insignias on your clothing,
appropriately concealing off-duty weapons and ensuring that your private data
is protected are essential steps in avoiding off-duty conflicts.More importantly, before taking action,
off-duty police officers should strongly consider that they lack the support
and equipment available while on-duty;and
that they are likely to bear the additional concern of exposing family and
friends to danger.
According to the
NCTC, On January 15, 2004, at approximately , in Karachi, Pakistan, two bombs exploded within 15 minutes
of each other at the Pakistan Bible Society building. The first blast damaged the building but caused
no casualties. Later, a car bomb
exploded, injuring three police officers and 12 civilians who had gathered to
inspect the damage from the first blast and damaging 18 nearby vehicles[xix].Secondary devices are intended to kill or
wound first responders.A post-blast
scene is NOT a safe scene.In
addition to evidence collection and preservation and any unsafe conditions
(like damaged structures and hazards chemicals), police officers must be
mindful of secondary devices.Considerations
range from suspicious, undamaged vehicles to the use of the police radio, which
might accidentally detonate a device.
By examining and
debriefing terrorist events overseas we are able to identify training,
education and equipment needs in our own agencies and communities.News from overseas is an opportunity to ask What
if that happened here?In our next
article, we will journey further into homeland security and terrorism by
examining how technology can supplement solid tactical training and increase
your counterterrorism skills.
[i] A synopsis of all 591 incidents
can be viewed at http://www.hitechcj.com/id201.html.
[ii] All tabular data developed from
the NationalCounterterrorismCenter, World Incident Tracking System.
[iii] According to the NCTC, WITS, on
April 3, 2004, in Madrid, Spain, suspected terrorists detonated several bombs
in an apartment building, killing one police officer and wounding fifteen
others. The suspects, who allegedly conducted the 11 March 2004 Madrid bombings, blew themselves up
after police had surrounded the building where they were hiding, in order to
avoid being captured. NCTC WITS ICN Number 200466399.
[iv] According to the NCTC WITS, on
June 7, 2004, in the Kharar District, Logar Province, Afghanistan, militants attacked a government
headquarters building, killing one police officer. NCTC WITS ICN Number
[v] According to the NCTC WITS, on
January 5, 2004, in Pattani, Thailand, an improvised explosive device strapped
to a motorcycle in a park exploded as two technicians attempted to defuse it,
killing both engineers. NCTC WITS ICN Number 200458454.
[vi] According to the NCTC WITS, on March 23, 2004, in Yala Province, Thailand, assailants shot and
killed a police officer while he was directing traffic. NCTC WITS ICN Number200458509.
[vii]According to the NCTC WITS, on January 6, 2004, in the TetariaVillage, Morang, Nepal, unidentified gunmen shot and killed an off-duty
police officer. NCTC,
WITS ICN Number200460008.
[viii] There are a few caveats
regarding the constructs of this table.The synopses provided by the NCTC were very brief.An incident was only classified as bombed a
police vehicle if the synopsis mentioned the device being attached to the
officers vehicle.It is likely that
some of the attacks classified as unknown included these attacks.Also, an incident was only classified as an
ambush if the synopsis had the word ambush.Many of the synopses were likely to have been ambush type attacks; and,
some attacks, like those occurring off-duty, clearly were ambushes.
[xii] According to the NCTC WITS, on
January 14, 2004, in Ba'qubah, Iraq, a suicide car bomber attacked a
police station, killing two civilians and injuring 26 local police officers. NCTC, WITS ICN Number 200458141.
[xiii] According to the NCTC WITS, on
April 12, 2004, in Kirkuk, Iraq, unknown militants fired two mortar rounds at a
police post, killing one Iraqi police officer and injuring four civilians.
NCTC WITS Number 200464020.