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CHDS Grads Exchange Best Practices in Europe

Three alumni of Center for Homeland Defense and Security programs were part of a Department of Homeland Security delegation that traveled to Europe March 19-21 to exchange best practices on fusion centers and countering violent extremism.

Call it intercontinental collaboration.

American law enforcement officials met with counterparts at Europol to exchange methods and tour facility’s such as Belgium’s National Counterterrorism Center in Brussels and a fusion center in Antwerp, the Netherlands.

CHDS Executive Leaders Program graduate Michael Downing of the Los Angeles Police Department along with master’s degree alums Keith Squires of the Utah Department of Public Safety and David Carabin of the Boston Regional Intelligence Center were part of the delegation.

Attendees highlighted best practices and discussed the similarities faced on both continents. Europe has long been a magnet for immigration from traditionally Muslim nations, but unlike police agencies in the United States police forces are nationalized.

"Some of the things we shared were how fusion centers in the United States have developed and how the fusion network is evolving and ties so many state, local and tribal agencies together," said Squires, who is also a graduate of the CHDS Fusion Center Leaders Program.

Downing, commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism and Criminal Intelligence Bureau, presented on the LAPD’s curriculum for combating violent extremism.

"What we really stressed was there are increase and decrease drivers that cause individuals and groups to be disposed to violence," Downing said. "We talked about what we can do to intervene to support values of the country."

The LAPD piloted its curriculum last January in San Diego and plants another pilot in Los Angles during June. The curriculum is based on the community policing to identify what violent extremism is and how it manifests itself; identify gaps in current strategy and build a strategy that enlists non-law enforcement community resources.

For Carabin, the event reinforced his view that the Boston area is well-placed to deal with radicalization through participating in the Department of Justice’s Building Communities of Trust Program (BCoT), coupled with a program Boston Police Department developed in 2010 titled Partners Advancing Communities Together (PACT). While the BCoT program focuses on forging trusted relationships between law enforcement and foreign communities vulnerable to radicalization, the PACT program focuses on high-risk violent offenders by blending policing and criminal justice partner engagement for crime suppression, with a strong public health component, recognizing mental health problems, lack of job skills and other factors that lend to violent criminal behavior.

"I walked away from was an appreciation of what we are doing in the United States," Carabin said. "We have a model in place here that is going to be prepared for issues on the far end of radicalization."

Attending brought some immediate, even if coincidental, fruits for Squires upon his return. He had established a cybersecurity team in January for the Utah Department of Public Safety. When Squires returned to work, that team briefed him on a suspect who had ties to Utah, but was operating out of the Netherlands, hacking into various sensitive SCADA systems and posting the information on the Internet.

"It showed just how much we have in common," Squires said. I was able to share this information with FBI and with Europol. "Suspects may be on different continents but they still exchange information through the Internet. A lot of the outreach and enforcement efforts taking place on both sides can benefit each other. "

The communication between law enforcement in the United States and European counterparts will continue through a Web portal established for exchanging information.