Police urged to aid FBI anti-terror effort

In speech, agency's chief vows better cooperation

July 17, 2002|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

The head of the FBI told hundreds of law enforcement officers gathered in Baltimore yesterday that they must provide crucial front-line help in preventing terror attacks and acknowledged his agency's history of strained relations with local police.

"It's fair to say we have not always done a good job in sharing information ... or even sharing credit," FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said. "I do believe the bureau is changing. I think the bureau started changing in the wake of Sept. 11."

Mueller spoke at the close of a four-day police training conference at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel that examined how local police can better fight terrorism. All of the more than 2,000 officers who attended are graduates of the FBI's National Academy in Quantico, Va.

In his remarks at the 38th annual gathering of the FBI National Academy Associates, Mueller also told the officers from police departments across the country that they will have to play a greater role in bank robbery and drug investigations as the bureau shifts its main focus to counterterrorism.

Less than a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, the FBI came under blunt criticism from local leaders across the country - including Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris - for not working more closely with the nation's local law enforcement agencies.

O'Malley told a congressional panel in October that the "disconnect in criminal intelligence is the biggest threat right now, and the most dangerous one."

Mueller and other Justice Department officials moved quickly to respond to the concerns. Removing his suit jacket yesterday and addressing the officers in his shirtsleeves, Mueller said the FBI and local law enforcement must form a "true partnership" to prevent terror attacks from an enemy that he described as unrelenting.

"It's fair to say that al-Qaida is one of the most elusive, certainly the most hostile terrorist groups we have faced at any time in the past or that we will face at any point in the future," Mueller said. "They have the motivation and, unfortunately, they have the money to accomplish terrorist attacks."

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