THE MAGAZINE

Unconventional Cooperation

By Brian M. Van Hise

Training
 
During the year from DP3’s inception until the DNC, the Denver Police and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) coordinated various training opportunities for private-sector security managers. One course was a five-hour awareness class called “Incident Response to Terrorist Bombing” that was taught by the Denver Police bomb squad with teaching materials provided by New Mexico Tech’s DHS First-Responder Training program. Offered in January 2008, the course was designed to demonstrate how explosives can be concealed, what components all explosives must have, and how to respond after discovering such devices.
 
Rock describes the focus of the class: “We want people to know what they’re looking at. If they see something that looks like an explosive device, [we want them to know] what to do about it. What information can they tell us so we can have a quicker response with the appropriate people?”
 
Course instructors passed around examples of dummy bombs stuffed in paper bags and briefcases to demonstrate how they could have been rigged. The course ended with a test and certifications from New Mexico Tech.
 
In early June 2008, the DHS Office for Bombing Prevention, under sponsorship from Armor Group International Training Inc. and CIAC, offered a 40-hour course called “Surveillance Detection Training for Critical Infrastructure Key Resource Operators and Security Staff.”
 
The weeklong class of about 30 local business security managers devoted the first four hours of the day to teaching attendees the fundamentals of facility rings of security, facility vulnerability analysis, determining hostile surveillance points, and determining surveillance detection points. The course also emphasized that each property is unique with regard to surveillance.
 
The afternoons were spent at a local shopping center, where students were first asked to walk the perimeter of the mall and conduct vulnerability assessments. Were “secure” doors really not secure? Was anyone questioned by mall security or concerned citizens noticing the unusual behavior?
 
Eventually, students were to determine hostile detection points. Where could one sit in a car and watch delivery activity? Which bench would be most beneficial for watching ingress/egress and counting unsuspecting shoppers? Then students also compiled surveillance detection points around the mall. How could someone watch another person who was watching others?
 
During the final day of the course, students spent five hours at the mall searching for hostile surveillance personnel DHS had planted. Students did not know how many suspicious individuals there were or what they looked like.
Was the young man sitting with his back to the fountain really working on the crossword puzzle in the paper, or was he surveying loading dock check-in procedures on the south end of the complex? Students were asked to detect and report all suspicious activity to an off-site command center, helmed by other students.
 
In the end, during debriefing, students determined there were 12 hostile surveillance individuals. In actuality, there were only three from DHS. However, those three were included in the 12, so the drill was determined to be a success. Some students jokingly wondered if a call should be placed to the mall security about the other nine exhibiting strange behavior and not part of the exercise.
 
“This type of information was ideal because we had already been receiving reports of suspicious things that were occurring: people taking pictures of buildings and of things that most tourists wouldn’t take pictures of,” Rock says.
Upon completion of the course, security managers who had attended were encouraged to teach the surveillance detection fundamentals to their security staffs.
 
Conclusion and Challenges
 
Rock has suggestions for municipalities that want to establish a partnership like DP3. The first step is to proactively reach out and invite all the relevant players to meetings. The police department should also provide relevant training and good information that people are interested in receiving, he says. And he emphasizes the importance of a system of exchanging key information in a timely manner.
 
Gargan says the transfer of information between the two sectors was a great challenge for the partnership. He says there’s a balance between keeping law-enforcement-sensitive information classified and keeping the public informed. “Breaking down that barrier was pretty tough. Just breaking down ‘old school’ law-enforcement ideas was pretty tough,” he says.
 
Still, the goals are achievable, as DP3 proved. Within a relatively short time, Denver’s public-private partnership was able to overcome a major communication hurdle between the public and private sectors through the arrangement established by the CEPP and MissionMode. The partnership also reached out to DHS to provide relevant training to private-sector security officers, with no cost to the participants.
 
That’s not to say that there aren’t ongoing challenges for DP3. Attendance at the monthly meetings dropped significantly after the DNC and is back to 2007 levels. Any public entity wanting to create a similar program needs to be patient during slow times. “The most challenging aspect is just getting people involved when there’s not a major situation that’s going down,” says Rock. People just “want these systems to run in the background” until they’re needed, he notes.
 
When the Colorado Rockies found themselves in the 2007 World Series and Denver learned that it would host as many as four of the games, a DP3 meeting was held on only two hours’ notice. There was a strong turnout of about 70 people, showing that businesses appreciated the partnership when they saw the need.
 
Gargan explains: “We were briefed by Denver Police as to what can happen, being it was the World Series, and of the possibilities of what happens in many cities around the country now when a team wins…people get a little wild…and what we had to be prepared for in the buildings.”
 
Rock was pleased with how the DNC event turned out, as were most in the private sector. The only property damage sustained was a bit of graffiti. It wasn’t the smashed windows, upturned cars, or major tear gas deployment that some had feared. It wasn’t anywhere near “what could have been” during the BOMA’s worst-case scenario drill. Some of the credit for that outcome goes to the DP3.
 
Edson leans back in his chair, looking out the conference room window over north Denver and sums up the point of a public-private partnership program: “You don’t want the head of an organization, a large employer in the area, sitting down across the table with the emergency manager for their city for the first time and handing business cards to one another after there’s a smoking crater in the ground…. They need to be part of the process all the way through.”

Brian M. Van Hise was security manager of Denver’s Seventeenth Street Plaza for Advantage Security, Inc., during the DNC.

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