The Chicago Police Reform Essays VIII (of VIII)

Part VIII: Police Partnerships

Approximately two years ago, I was of the belief that I could still fix policing from the inside, if I were the Police Chief. I applied to the superintendent position for the Chicago Police Department. Part of that application involved answering essay questions. I am posting the answers to those questions, here, in an eight part series of eight minute reads, one each day. I had not yet evolved to the place where I am with the formulation of the Civilian-Led Policing framework, but there is value here in the development of the thoughts leading up to it. Some more on that is explained in a piece titled, We Know How to Fix Policing in America. We Do.

Find the rest of the series here: Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV; Part V; Part VI; Part VII

Describe your experience in working on terrorism-related matters. In particular, please address:

How to enhance information gathering, analysis and making relevant information operational, through sharing with other law enforcement partners in Chicago and elsewhere.

How would you develop ties and relationships with other law enforcement actors around the world?

What is the best approach to engaging with federal partners?

I began my work in anti-terrorism at the age of 17, when I entered the Marine Corps and spent my four-year enlistment in the Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team (FAST), the Marine Corps’ global quick response team for prevention and first response. Site security (hardening targets from terrorist attack) and the importance of plain language communication (to prevent confusion when multiple agencies have to coordinate, a lesson reinforced by 9/11 response errors) are important skills from that military experience that translates well to policing. Because you cannot solve everything like the military, domestic issues with terrorism are very different.

On the streets of Chicago, domestic terrorism is a continuing threat much more so than international terrorism. Right-wing groups are the most likely perpetrators, followed by eco-terrorism (Watson, 2002), but an individual is significantly more likely to be injured by just about anything else other than terrorism. Education is the overwhelming need for police because education is what will keep us acting ethically. Officers need training to observe street level behavior, collect intelligence, and realize that racial profiling can blind officers to suspicious activities, forge meaningful relationships, and networks with every culture in the community. Education also allows us to form intelligent responses and prioritize needs to best serve the community. An example of this is found in the human response to lone wolf terrorists, to be scared and to spend resources finding them and preventing their attacks. The human response allocates resources away from known concerns, to witch hunts. The research is clear that, despite the political peril, nothing can really be done beyond relying on the officers and detectives already working on the types of crimes the lone wolves intend to commit (Barnes, 2012, p. 1661). A much better use of resources to mitigate the threat of terrorism is to enhance security for, “controversial businesses (abortion clinics), public buildings with large numbers of people (mass casualties), infrastructure systems and services (water treatment, mass transit)” (Wood Jr., 2012, pp. D-95/96) in addition to, planning coordinated responses to those locations in the event of an emergency.


It can be tough to see the big picture in regards to terrorism, for that is the point of terrorism, to make us change or response out of fear instead of rationality. To avoid poor decisions, we have to rely on intelligence and analysis. We have to devote resources to those specified locations because, domestically, “the number one target was military facilities, followed closely by targets in New York City. The third most frequent target was mass gatherings, like the Boston Marathon, nightclubs and bars, and shopping malls” (Zuckerman, Bucci, & Carafano, 2013). Smartly approaching terrorist threats reinforces the community policing model because the relationships with people are essential; it has been shown that friends and family members of future terror suspects often spoke of or reported their suspicions. Knowing those community members to report to and assess the threat is intelligence at its core. Intelligence through relationships will also provide us with the knowledge needed to form non-punitive responses. The improvement of anti-extremism efforts to provide alternatives to at-risk individuals, avenues to air grievances and be heard, proactive mental health screening and counseling, community outreach and education about the warning signs of extremist activity, and other yet to be developed ideas that, “besides potentially preventing future violence, also have significant spillover effects. Stronger communities, a more robust civil society, and a more vibrant political discourse are all important ‘goods,’ notwithstanding any direct link to counterterrorism” (Barnes, 2012, p. 1661).

Building Partnerships

Chicago is in a unique situation in regards to terrorism and its response. The city is an important asset to the country and thus at a significantly elevated risk of being subject to international terrorism. Currently, exactly what that means is cloudy. “Much work needs to be done to understand what role local law enforcement agencies are playing in the national homeland security strategy, and which factors are conducive to agency adoption and implementation of homeland security measures” (Randol, 2012, p. 320). To contribute to eliminating ambiguity, policy and procedure shall be developed in conjunction with agencies such as DHS (which united over 22 federal agencies), FBI, CIA, and ATF, to ensure that there is timely intelligence to our officers and back. These partnerships enable the agency to focus on the protection of life, property, and efficient resource utilization, without sacrificing the freedoms and liberties of our citizens and be prepared to respond with and incorporate into the shared resources.

During graduate school, I introduced a practice called “virtual voice” for the purpose of clear communication using virtual teams for global partnerships via conferencing software and document collaborations. These skills work for building those global partners, as well as for the local partners on the other side of Chicago’s unique position, the closest major agency for many surrounding jurisdictions. In particular, for Illinois, it was, “found that many small agencies did not have enough internal budgetary resources to address the planning, training, and equipment components of terrorism preparedness” (Randol, 2012, p. 319). Partnerships to provide these surrounding jurisdictions with services is needed for a full major incident preparedness plan. Those partnerships include training, facilities, response plans, equipment, and most importantly, intelligence gathering and sharing. Exchange of information is another lesson learned from 9/11 that many agencies have not been able to earnestly implement. Remedying the information shared, ideally through a collaborative intelligence network and shared database, is a top priority

Michael Wood Jr. is a police management scholar who after spending a career in the USMC and Baltimore Police Department, took to dismantling the blue wall of silence and creating the pathway to reform; a model called Civilian-Led Policing. His fight for justice has included leading the historic Veterans for Standing Rock action in December of 2016, listening to the front lines of Black Lives Matter, opposing money in politics, and elevating the voices of others. You can find Michael in hundreds of media appearances, from HBO’s Fixing the System documentary with President Obama, to The Joe Rogan Experience, to published opinion pieces in The Guardian and Baltimore Sun, and everything in-between, where he furthers the discussion on criminal justice systems and institutions, and the needs of society.

LinkedIn; YouTube; Instagram

iMemberTimes is the digital newsprint of iMemberMedia. We are open to submissions and new writers.


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Edited by Dr. Michael Wood Jr., an internationally recognized public safety expert, and scholar of police management.

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Dr. Michael Wood Jr.

Dr. Michael Wood Jr.

USMC, BPD(ret), author “The Business of Policing”

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