Handling a Terrorist Attack
No law enforcement agency wants to hear those words. Prior to three decades ago it
was likely that only the police agencies in large cities such as New York, Chicago, and
Washington, DC would have received such a notification. During the 1960s and early
1970s Vietnam war era, law enforcement agencies located near universities that were
experiencing large antiwar protests may have also encountered terrorist attacks.
Similarly, there were southern towns and cities where there might have been violent
attacks staged by Ku Klux Klan-type extremists in connection with the integration issue.
Otherwise, most law enforcement agencies probably would not have been worried about
terrorist attacks taking place within their jurisdiction. Much has changed during the past
two decades. The scope of terrorism has expanded with the growth of single-issue
extremism and the threat of international terrorism. Law enforcement agencies must
now place terrorism somewhere on their radar screens, if not in the middle of the view-
ing area. In today’s world any law enforcement agency, regardless of its size or location,
could receive the call to respond to a terrorist attack. The target may be something such
as the World Trade Center, located in the center of a huge city, it could be a minority
church in a medium-sized town, or it could be a mink farm located in an unincor-
porated area many miles from the nearest sheriff’s office. Similarly, law enforcement
agencies anywhere in the county could find terrorist safe houses, bomb factories, and
weapons and explosives training sites within their jurisdiction.