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Dutta Brings Writing Prowess to Homeland Security

Whether it’s policing the streets of Southern California or countering terrorists on the other side of the globe, Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Sunil Dutta believes both require respect for communities and for human rights.

Dutta, a March 2012 graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security, is published extensively in U.S. and foreign publications on how to make policing more effective and efficient, while also analyzing root causes of terrorism emanating from South Asia that pose grave threats to America’s security. His work has appeared in overseas publications such as the Daily Times of Pakistan and the Hindustan Times in Dutta’s native country as well as in newspapers in the United States.

At the micro level, Dutta’s writings espouse local-level law enforcement as a critical and underused tool in combating terrorism while keeping an eye toward Pakistan, where his ancestors once lived before the partition of India and where he sees a threat to America’s homeland security.

"If you look, most of my writings are about overlapping issues of respect for community, respect for people’s rights, and intelligent policing," Dutta said during a recent phone interview. "It’s my belief that local law enforcement resources have not been given sufficient credit and I don’t think their capability is being used. I think we are underutilized. I have been proposing consolidation of intelligence gathering at the local level."

To support that position Dutta notes that there are approximately 800,000 local law enforcement in the United States compared with about 14,000 sworn FBI agents.

"Just going by sheer numbers, we have more resources right at the ground level," he observed. "In LAPD we have officers whose job is to go out and talk to people in the community. These are the kind of feelers no national agencies could ever have."

Before entering law enforcement 15 years ago, Dutta was a doctoral-degreed scientist at the University of California-Davis. He had become a scientist because of his desire to help people, specifically farmers. But by the early 1990s the constant demands of seeking research funding and constantly justifying basic science research left him questioning the value of the work. Having given up on the idealism of science and believing that science did not help solve human problems, he looked for some fulfilling career that could satisfy his idealism. However, policing was a job he had never even dreamt of in his life before.

"It took a lot of thinking," he said. "I finally realized police officers actually touch people and make a difference. I never thought I would be a police officer. Fifteen years later, I’m still here."

Though in a different career, a scientific background is helpful in the homeland security enterprise, he said. That has been particularly true in studying chemical and biological weapons. While he understands the science around such weapons, he questions whether too many resources have been devoted to preventing such attacks at the expense of more realistic threats.

"Scientific analysis is really useful," he said. "Biological weapons theoretically are really dangerous, but let’s address realistic threats."

On a larger scale, Pakistan presents an insidious yet equal threat to homeland security. Dutta’s interest in the volatile nation stems from his upbringing in India; his family was forced to relinquish its ancestral Pakistani lands when the two nations were partitioned in 1947. Dutta remembered the 1971 war between India and Pakistan and the air raid sirens when he was a child living in India.

"That, history and connection to Pakistan obviously, made me interested," he recalled. "I still remember the blackouts and the sirens, and how frightening that was."

With that perspective, Dutta studies the history of Pakistan’s reliance on militants, beginning as a U.S. ally during the Cold War. Pakistan was a valuable allay against the former Soviet Union but Dutta notes the U.S. turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s use of radicals to meet its objectives, particularly in the disputed area of Kashmir. Those same military proxies are now wreaking havoc across the border in Afghanistan. Moreover, these groups threaten homeland security in the United States as well as American soldiers in Afghanistan.

"Our homeland security was impacted because Pakistan started specializing in 1970’s in asymmetric warfare," Dutta observed. "Their military likes the United States’ money but they have their own interests – conflict over Kashmir and enmity with India. Pakistan’s so called duplicitous behavior can be traced to their military’s obsession over India since 1947 and the desire to control Afghanistan by placing a puppet regime in Kabul. It leads to Pakistan engaging in behavior that is damaging to American interests. Paradoxically, at the same time they ask for military and economic aid from US because they can’t finance their ill-conceived ventures in South Asia."

He points to studies showing that between 2004 and 2010 the majority of 21 major terrorist attacks against the West were linked in some way to Pakistan, as were the 2008 series of Mumbai attacks that left 166 dead.

Though Iran’s nuclear program has grabbed headlines in recent years, Dutta sees a more dire threat in an already nuclear-armed Pakistan.

"If we look at the facts we know some members of the Pakistan military support and sponsor terrorism and they have nukes," he said. "We have a living threat to the whole world, but we’re looking at Iran. I think Pakistan’s nuclear threat is severely underplayed in our media. Iran’s threat is insignificant compared to Pakistani threat."

Connecting the homeland security dots by examining issues more broadly in his writing has been one of the benefits of a CHDS education.

"If you look at street gangs (for example), they are not just isolated operations in south Los Angeles," Dutta noted. "They have tentacles in prisons, different towns. I think any time you deal with any complex overseas or local law enforcement issues, whether cartels or human trafficking, we have to deal with them as networks, and defeat them as networks."

  • Dutta, S (2012). Viewpoints: Pakistan at a turning point as U.S. exits Afghanistan. Sacramento Bee. Sunday Op Ed. Page 5 E. April 22, 2012. http://www.sacbee.com/2012/04/22/4430794/pakistan-at-a-turning-point-as.html#storylink=misearch
  • Dutta, S (2012). Pakistan stands isolated in South Asia. Pakistan Daily Times. "Comment" Op Ed Section. April 21, 12. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\04\21\story_21-4-2012_pg3_3
  • Dutta, S In edited work by Todd Scott. "Introduction to Criminal Justice: Current Perspectives from InfoTrac." Wadsworth. 1st edition (August 23, 2011). ISBN-10: 1111828334
  • Dutta, S (2011). Police Need More Nonlethal Alternatives to Firearms. Christian Science Monitor: Opinion. July 7, 2011.
  • Dutta, S (2011). Is Terrorism Dead. India Currents. Analysis. May 9, 2011.
  • Dutta, S (2011). Bin Laden, Pakistan and the end of terrorism. Sunday Opinion Page. Daily News. May 8, 2011.
  • Dutta, S (2010). How to fix America's broken criminal justice system. Christian Science Monitor: Opinion. December 30, 2010.
  • Dutta, S (2010). Criminal profiling vs. racial profiling. Chicago Tribune: Commentary. November 22, 2010.
  • Dutta, S (2010). Not Race Alone. Profiling By Police Is Crucial, As Long As It Takes Into Account All Factors. Los Angeles Times. Op-Ed. November 22, 2010.
  • Dutta, S (2010). How to Prevent Terrorism and Crime: New Ideas on Intelligence and Policing. Sunday Opinion. Daily News. November 14, 2010.