Cover Story

Are You Ready?
By Bernard B. Kerik, NYPD Police Commissioner (Ret.)

As the sound of automatic weapons overshadowed the screams of innocent concertgoers in Las Vegas, I’m curious to know if there is a cop in this country who watched and looked at this scene and found it surprising.

Chilling perhaps, or frightening, yes, but was anyone really surprised? Given the world we live in today, unless you’ve lived with your head in the sand like an ostrich, or you’re just a complete moron, there’s no way this attack would be surprising.

Unfortunately, with the global threats we face regarding international terrorism, it is not enough to ask if there will be another attack, but rather what will the next attack be and when will it happen.

Is your department or agency prepared? Are you mentally and physically prepared? Are you consistently training, using mock drills and table top exercises? Have you considered scenarios so far “outside the box” that others may look at you and question your sanity?

From 1996 – 2001, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s Office of Emergency Management continually planned for one crisis after the next, ensuring that every city agency was part of an integral team that created plans, protocols, and policies for responding to just about any crisis you could imagine. However, no one would have ever imagined that massive jet airliners would be used as missiles to attack the World Trade Center or other government buildings.

For the past several years, Las Vegas has engaged in establishing disaster response, crisis management, and active shooter response policies and protocols, but did they ever consider a scenario where they could find themselves under heavy fire from the 32nd floor of one of their hotels?

The reality is that you and your department could be wearing those same shoes next. History is a good guide. Mass shootings and active shooter scenarios are rising, and there are no indications that this disturbing trend will be slowing down any time soon. It’s here to stay. Deal with it by staying ahead of the curve.

The one lesson that local, state and federal law enforcement authorities learned in the aftermath of the attacks on 9/11 was that planning, preparation, preemptive strategies, and protocols to address crisis and disaster response could be in many instances the difference between life and death.

Since the attacks on America on September 11, 2001, we have witnessed one attack after another around the world: Nice, France; Spain, London, Belgium, Brussels, as well as the daily attacks in the Middle East. We’ve almost grown numb to the news and unfortunately, if it doesn’t happen in your backyard it’s no longer an interest.

However, right here in our own backyard, Boston, San Bernardino, Orlando and a number of thwarted attacks in New York City have put America’s law enforcement agencies on notice. It could happen anywhere at any time. However, the reality is that in most cases there is little or no notice at all, but regardless of where and when, we’ve got to be prepared.

The every day “cop on the beat” even in the smallest of suburban communities could be the only thing standing between an active shooter and 200 – 300 kids in an elementary school. An off-duty state trooper with his family at a movie theater could be the one person who prevents a mass shooting, which otherwise could turn into one of America’s most substantial.

The holiday shopping season will soon be filling our malls with massive amounts of shoppers, all unaware that a predator could be lurking and waiting for the right moment to lash out and kill as many innocent people as humanly possible. An off duty corrections officer may be the only person in the mall carrying a firearm and the only person able and willing to stop the threat.

Policing in the United States of America has changed, but do our mayors and governors understand how? When they stand before the mainstream media cameras and call for the elimination of local and state police agencies acquiring federal surplus equipment, do they realize that this is the same equipment that could prevent a mass slaughter in their communities?

To the contrary, when mayors and governors seek the acquisition of that equipment, do they realize that they must then infuse funds into their budgets for training and resources associated with that equipment?

Do they realize the local and state police basic academy classes now have to have an introduction to international terrorism, active shooter training, and disaster and crisis management? Or are they asleep at the wheel?

No one wants to have one of these attacks happen in their neighborhood or their community, but there’s always the possibility, and if it does, are they prepared? Do they have the right resources, training, and response capabilities? Do they have executives that understand how to manage their response and deal with the aftermath of a crisis? Are they prepared to deal with the press and media?

The days of propping up ‘a suit’ in front of the cameras, and an international media that quite often is already anti-police and anti-government, is over. Police executives must be skilled on how to deal with the press, because without those skills and insight, the subsequent days following a disaster or active shooter scenario can be ripe with perceptions of instability, lack of leadership, and the lack of security within one’s community, which has a real chance of exacerbating these already challenging times.

There are a lot of lessons that will come out of the Las Vegas shooting massacre. Do we do enough when it comes to hotel security at our casinos or other tourist locations?

Some things we’ve already looked at, some we have not, but one thing’s for sure: There’s going to be another attack, and there’s going to be a need for our local and state first responders to counter the attack and protect the innocent and eliminate the threat.

Are we prepared?

Only time will tell.

Bernard Kerik was New York City’s police commissioner during the 9/11 attacks. He became an American hero as he led the NYPD through rescue and recovery efforts of the World Trade Center. His resumé as a public servant is long and storied, and includes honors from President Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth II, and the NYPD’s Medal for Valor for saving his partner in a gun battle. In 2004, Kerik was nominated by President George W. Bush to head the US Department of Homeland Security.