An Organized Response to Terror

An Organized Response to Terror

S.E. Williams 

Photo by John Gaede

Photo by John Gaede

During the December 2 terrorist attack San Bernardino experienced a massive, law enforcement mutual aid response. Officers from nearly every jurisdiction in the region were available— an unprecedented response in total alignment with California’s Law Enforcement Mutual Aid System.

The Law Enforcement Mutual Aid System was established in 1961 and is used to restore order during emergencies, including civil unrest. It also established a framework for local law enforcement agencies to receive assistance during other unusual events like the mass shooting/terrorist attack on the Inland Regional Center.

According to the California Office of Emergency Services (OES) , the Law Enforcement Mutual Aid System System) is based on the concept of ‘neighbor helping neighbor’.

As the OES explained, the System is based on four organizational levels—cities, counties, regions and the state. Within the System, a county is identified as an operational area along with its political subdivisions or cities, while the state is divided into seven Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Regions. County sheriffs play a key and pivotal role in the System process as each sheriff also serves as the Regional Mutual Aid Coordinator for his/her region.

When the Law Enforcement Mutual Aid system is activated in an operational area (as it was on December 2nd), adjacent and/or neighboring law enforcement agencies assist each other. When such an event requires assistance from outside the county, the region will provide requested assistance to the impacted county. However, if the combined resources of the region are insufficient to cope with the incident, the Regional Coordinator is required to contact the State Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Coordinator at the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES).

Subsequent to the attack, the Board of Supervisors also made formal requests for assistance from California Governor Jerry Brown and the President of the United States, Barack Obama. These requests for assistance were made based on what county officials identified as, “the unprecedented response, mitigation and recovery costs associated with the occurrence.”

In assessing the impact of November 2, it is important for readers to remember the attack actually unfolded at three separate sites. Included among them were the Inland Regional Center at 1363 S. Waterman Avenue where the mass shooting occurred; the intersection of Richardson Street and San Bernardino Avenue where the shoot out between the suspects and law enforcement took place; and, Center Street and Brookside Avenue in Redlands where the defendants were alleged to reside.

In the days following the events, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) declared the incident an Act of Terrorism and as required by law, took control of the investigation.

Also in the days immediately following the event, the Board of Supervisors issued an Emergency Proclamation. Such a proclamation authorizes extraordinary police powers; provides limited immunity for emergency actions of public employees and governing bodies; it gives authority to officials to issue orders and regulations designed to protect life and property which includes the ability to establish a curfew. It also activates pre-established local emergency provisions that include special purchasing and contracting.

Finally and most importantly, the Board’s Emergency Proclamation was a prerequisite for a gubernatorial Proclamation of a State of Emergency and a Presidential Declaration of an Emergency or Major Disaster.

The current Emergency Proclamation will be reviewed at least once every 30 days until it is terminated by the Board of Supervisors.

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