US flag signifying that this is a United States Federal Government website   Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Homeland Security

Secretary Napolitano's Remarks on "The Importance of International Policing and Security Partnerships"

Release Date: 
December 5, 2011

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Gulf States Global Police Symposium
(Remarks as Prepared)

Thank you for the introduction. It's great to join you today for this conference, and I want to take a moment to thank: Sheriff Baca and conference organizers and ICE Director Morton.

The Abu Dhabi Police and Los Angeles County Sheriff have been at the leading edge of law enforcement cooperation, both here in the Emirates and across the globe, and I want to thank you for your leadership and your continued partnership.

I'm confident this conference will build on the work done at the inaugural symposium LA County hosted in 2009, in partnership with Qatar and the French National Police, and we certainly look forward to many more in the future.

Conferences like this one are extremely important, because we know that in today's interconnected world, criminal activity can be international in scope, origin, and impact.

This has significant implications not only for how we do our jobs and work together, but also how we ensure the safety of the citizens and communities that we all serve.

Indeed, I would venture to say that what we have seen over the past ten years is a major transformation in terms of the kinds of evolving threats that local police forces must now confront in their communities.

Many of you know this well, having served on the frontlines in your own cities and communities for years. Today's threats are not the same as they were ten years ago, or even five years ago.

Whether in the U.S., Europe, Asia or here in the Middle East, we face a threat environment where violent extremism is no longer defined or contained by international borders.

We face an environment where transnational criminal organizations are aggressively seeking to exploit gaps and vulnerabilities in our shared systems of trade, travel, and communication, while attempting to hide behind international jurisdictions.

And we face a threat environment where we have to address threats that are homegrown, those that originate abroad, and those that may be a hybrid of the two.

As you know, in many instances, local police must now confront criminal activity that not only originates within your communities, but also sophisticated transnational global threats – whether from cybercriminals, human smuggling and trafficking organizations, terrorists, or international fugitives.

In short, local police must deal with global issues that may very well begin thousands of miles away, but can have direct and serious consequences at home. And this, really, is a new kind of challenge for all of us.

It compels us to work together in new and more effective ways. It means that we must build and sustain new tools and capabilities that empower local police to combat threats that in many cases extend well beyond established law enforcement jurisdictions.

And it requires us to build and strengthen global partnerships so that we are able to constrain the ability of criminals and terrorists to operate within the global sphere.

Simply put, in our increasingly interconnected world, we can't be secure at home without strong partnerships abroad, and vice versa. This is a shared responsibility that we must address together—and we are.

Working closely with our partners across the United States and around the world, we are taking a new approach at the Department of Homeland Security and across the U.S. government to confront this challenge.

Our approach is centered around building the capacity and capabilities of frontline law enforcement to protect against and respond to a range of threats within their communities.

And the reason is clear: state and local law enforcement partners are often in the best position to recognize warning signs and indicators of potential terrorist or criminal activity. And they must have information, tools, training, and resources to effectively address those threats.

Of course, as we support law enforcement, we are also engaging our international partners in a number of important ways that I believe will help all of us address threats at the earliest point possible.

Today, I'd like to start there, by discussing some of the advances we have made – and continue to make – working together on a number of joint international efforts and initiatives that have improved our ability to share information, combat the activities of criminal organizations, prevent terrorist travel, and strengthen the security of the global supply chain.

As many of you know, DHS is deeply engaged overseas. We work in more than 75 countries worldwide and have the third largest international footprint of any U.S. civilian government agency, with more than 1,500 personnel deployed.

Here in the United Arab Emirates, for example, we have permanent personnel stationed here from two DHS agencies: Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

Our personnel work with the UAE government to support DHS investigations back in the U.S.; to conduct visa security checks to prevent terrorists and other criminals from exploiting the visa process; and to help interdict contraband on U.S.-bound ships, among other activities.

Through this work, here and at other international locations, we have helped our counterparts identify common threats to global security such as child pornographers, smugglers and human traffickers, as well as identify shipments of counterfeit goods.

We're also providing training to UAE customs and immigration agencies, sharing our expertise and lessons learned to help combat the illegal movement of people and goods across borders.

If this work sounds familiar to some of you, it is because we do similar work in many other countries. And without a doubt, these joint efforts have led to some significant successes in past years. Successes that have benefited both partners.

Working together, we have disrupted major global human trafficking rings, arrested leaders of drug trafficking organizations, shut down websites violating intellectual property rights laws, arrested fugitives and war criminals, and stopped major identity theft rings as well as cybercriminals.

Because of strong information sharing partnerships, we also successfully interdicted the air cargo threat originating in Yemen in October 2010 involving the shipment of explosives hidden in toner cartridges.

These kinds of activities underscore the importance of strong information sharing mechanisms between our nations so that we can identify potential threats and act swiftly to address them.

It is why, for example, DHS has signed 20 “Preventing and Combating Serious Crime” Agreements with countries to exchange biometric and biographic data to catch criminals who move from one country to another.

Over the past two years, we also have worked with international partners on two major global initiatives that I'll briefly mention because they illustrate the kind of impact we can achieve internationally when we all collaborate and share knowledge and experience.

After the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight #253 in December of 2009, we held a number of international summits across the world, including here in Abu Dhabi, to discuss the need for collaborative international action to prevent terrorists from boarding commercial aircraft.

As a result of this effort, 190 countries adopted a historic Declaration on Aviation Security at the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, Triennial Assembly. This agreement is the foundation for a new, truly global aviation security system that will help strengthen international travel for all nations.

For more than a year now, we also have joined our international partners around the world on a Global Supply Chain Security Initiative to protect the vast amount of goods and commerce that move across the world every day - and that drive our global economy.

As part of this effort, more than 80 countries now participate in Program Global Shield, sharing information about the export of 14 precursor chemicals that can be used in Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs.

Program Global Shield has already led to the seizure of more than 33 metric tons of chemicals, primarily ammonium nitrate, which, in the wrong hands, could be used to build hundreds, even thousands, of IEDs. It is a great example of how customs agencies are joining together to address a common threat that affects us all.

As we have undertaken these efforts, we also have focused on strengthening and empowering frontline law enforcement in the United States.

Our goal is likely one that you share – to get resources and information into their hands so they can do their jobs more effectively.

When I became Secretary of Homeland Security three years ago, one of the first priorities I set was to deepen our partnership with law enforcement. This has meant: Improving how we communicate and share information; Enhancing the kind of federal resources and support we provide through grants, training, and other means; Strengthening our analytic capabilities so we have better awareness of new and emerging threats; and Strengthening how we work together before, during, and after incidents and emergencies.

To achieve these goals, we have worked with law enforcement to implement a number of programs that I'd like to mention– because I believe they can serve to inform the discussions taking place at this conference, and at future conferences.

First and foremost, we have recognized that information is one of our best tools for identifying threats in our cities and communities. That information needs to be properly collected, analyzed, and shared wherever appropriate.

Within the United States we have supported the creation of 72 state and local fusion centers that serve as focal points where information about threats can be gathered, analyzed, and shared among federal, state, local, tribal, territorial and private sector partners.

Fusion centers give us greater analytic capability to understand threats, and we have deployed our own DHS personnel to these centers to work side by side with their state and local counterparts to share information, knowledge, and expertise.

With the U.S. Department of Justice and in partnership with law enforcement across the U.S., we also have launched the Suspicious Activity Reporting, or SAR Initiative, which trains frontline law enforcement to recognize behaviors and indicators related to terrorism, crime and other threats.

The SAR initiative standardizes how those observations are documented and analyzed; and expands and enhances the sharing of those reports, improving our awareness of threats at all levels.

More than 180,000 law enforcement officers have now received SAR training, and more are getting trained every week.

Efforts like this complement the kind of training that our DHS personnel provide the law enforcement community across the world, helping our international partners understand the kind of threats and trends we are seeing in the United States and any lessons that may apply in an international context.

In addition, we have embarked on an extensive public awareness initiative – the “If You See Something, Say Something,” campaign, which originated in New York City with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

We have several recent examples where the public has played a key role in preventing potentially deadly attacks in New York City, on America's West Coast, and near one of our large military bases, all because concerned citizens reported suspicious activity to law enforcement.

Finally, we are working with law enforcement agencies as well as communities across the U.S. to counter the threat of violent extremism through improved training and partnerships.

For example, we are implementing a Countering Violent Extremism curriculum for state and local law enforcement that is focused on community-oriented policing, which will help frontline personnel identify activities that are indicators of potential terrorist activity and violence.

With local communities and the U. S. Department of Justice, we have published guidance on best practices for community partnerships to prevent and mitigate homegrown threats.

And we have issued, and continue to release, unclassified case studies that examine recent incidents involving terrorism so all of us can better understand the warning signs that could indicate a developing terrorist attack.

What I have just described to you is a new approach – one in which many of you are involved and one that is helping us confront evolving threats in our communities as well as those originating beyond our shores.

This approach recognizes that international partnerships are the key to fighting international crime, and that we must continue to work together, learn from each other, and build on our already strong collaboration.

Ten or fifteen years ago, a conference like this probably wouldn't have taken place because local police from different countries most likely didn't see the need to directly engage each other.

That has now changed. My challenge to all of us today is to continue to talk about these issues and engage in regular conversation, dialogue and information sharing, because the threats we face are rapidly evolving.

We have made significant progress to change how we work together – how we share information, how we train together and build new capabilities, and how we identify and address threats.

We're proud of this work and grateful for your partnership – and I understand that there are already commitments to host the next three years of this conference, which will continue to strengthen our ties.

So I thank you for your continued commitment to this effort, and thank you for inviting me to speak today. We look forward to continuing to work with you.

###

Back to Top