Hurd on the Hill Special Edition
During the nine-and-a-half years I spent as an undercover officer in the CIA, I worked alongside my colleagues in the intelligence community, the diplomatic corps, and the military to prevent another terrorist attack like our nation experienced on September 11, 2001. While we were fighting this battle on the international stage, the brave men and women at police departments across the country were working hard to detect and prevent terrorist activities at home. Their job has become even more difficult and important as the threat has shifted from large-scale assaults perpetrated by international terrorist organizations to “lone wolf” attacks in crowded venues or on city streets.
San Antonio recently celebrated Fiesta, a ten-day festival that includes more than 100 public events and hosts two of the largest parades in the country. More than 400,000 people lined the streets of San Antonio on a Friday afternoon for the Battle of the Flowers parade alone, and more than 700,000 attended the Fiesta Flambeau Parade the following night. Our local law enforcement agencies undergo a tremendous amount of emergency-preparedness planning, cross-agency coordination, and on-site mobilization to ensure that each event runs smoothly without incident. And while we may not always notice their presence, we are able to enjoy events like Fiesta across this great nation, because police departments from New York City to San Antonio to Los Angeles provide us with a safe environment to convene and celebrate.
A few weeks before Fiesta, San Antonio hosted the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four Championship. In addition to the basketball games, there was a large outdoor concert venue and multiple fan interaction zones spread throughout downtown. The San Antonio Police (SAPD) and Fire (SAFD) Departments briefed me on their security operations for these events and toured me through their mobile incident command post, stationed in the heart of downtown along with the city’s information sharing fusion center and other temporary outposts set up for these types of events. This intricate security structure was replicated for Fiesta.
I was amazed at the level of sophistication and coordination that our public safety officers deployed to make sure we can safely, and without worry, enjoy events like the Final Four and Fiesta. However, I was disappointed in the level of equipment provided to SAPD and SAFD to complete their mission. The Departments were carrying out cutting-edge operations with equipment from a previous decade.
To help right this wrong, I invited leadership from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to attend Fiesta and see with their own eyes the great work being done here in San Antonio. FEMA manages a grant program that allocates money to major urban areas for terrorism preparedness operations. For too long the allocation of this money has focused on major urban areas, like New York City, that are potential targets for large-scale terrorist attacks. However, because of persistent urging from cities like San Antonio, FEMA recently decided to adjust the way this money is shared to account for cities that host other large tourist activities and events. After touring the crowded streets of Fiesta and seeing the security operations firsthand, the FEMA officials left with a better understanding of the crowds we draw at home and the urgency for our police and fire departments to have more modern resources.
Police departments, like SAPD, need our support. I am committed to fighting in Washington, DC to make sure the SAPD and other departments in my District have the resources they need to protect our communities. On a smaller scale, I’m also dedicated to showing my appreciation whenever I get the chance. A simple “thank you” can go a long way with these men and women who put their lives on the line every day to ensure we can go about our normal lives without disruption. Whether it is getting to work safely or attending an outdoor parade with your family, these brave officers are in the background ensuring that everything is running according to plan. Next time you see a police officer I encourage you to take the time to say hello and thank them for keeping you safe.
National Police Week, which is May 13 through May 19, is a great time to start.