State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies play an important role in identifying and preventing terrorist attacks. Although the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies are responsible for investigating terrorist threats, they rely on state and local law enforcement for information-sharing, detection, and initial response.
To better prepare these agencies to handle terrorism cases, there is an ongoing need for effective training. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) created the State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training (SLATT) Program to meet this need.
SLATT is a workshop-based training program that assembles panels of experts to provide local agencies with instruction on topics that have been requested for each specific session. These workshops vary in duration — they can be one to two days long — and the topics covered may include intelligence, investigative techniques, and counter surveillance.
Since its founding in 1996, SLATT has evolved to reflect trends in terrorist activity, and its curriculum has shifted to address emerging or persistent threats to U.S. security. To date, more than 146,000 state, local, and tribal law enforcement officials have participated in SLATT programs.
To help better understand the nature and value of this training, NIJ provided funding for the RAND Corporation to assess the various aspects of SLATT.
Overall, researchers found that SLATT planners and training participants had a favorable impression of the training and workshops. Six out of 10 workshop participants indicated that the information provided during the SLATT workshops would change their approach to terrorist threats and how they might investigate them. Additionally, researchers found that the law enforcement officers attending SLATT training are actively engaged in this area and their major responsibility is counterterrorism within their agency.
The SLATT program is broad in its reach and the majority of survey participants indicated that they had participated in one or two SLATT trainings in the past five years.
SLATT workshops help increase law enforcement’s awareness and understanding of international and domestic terror threats, thus providing them with the information to better inform their approach to possible threats. Further, SLATT trainings can provide more in-depth information for those interested in learning more and provide them with the materials and additional information to train other personnel within their agency.
In terms of improving SLATT trainings, researchers discovered that it is not uncommon to find a backlog of requests for SLATT training. There are more requests for SLATT briefings and workshops than the program is currently able to fill. A potential solution to this problem could be to extend the reach of SLATT training to prioritize train-the-trainer workshops, which support law enforcement personnel who are responsible for training or developing courses at their agencies. The researchers also point out that there are a number of other training opportunities available through the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
The SLATT technical service provider prioritizes requests based on the requestor (priority is given to state and local law enforcement over federal agencies or private organization), to reach the largest number of participants, and to ensure training opportunities are spread geographically.
Additionally, researchers suggest devoting more effort to facilitating network opportunities among law enforcement at trainings. While it is outside the scope of the SLATT program, local threat panels could be one avenue for enhancing networking opportunities.
Researchers found that participants in the investigative/intelligence workshops valued the training on local threats. Given this information, the SLATT planners may want to consider additional ways to engage the U.S. Attorney’s Office, local FBI representatives, and joint terrorism task forces (JTTFs). This may include getting a commitment from them to send their key personnel to participate and to present about local threats.
But researchers add that any strategy for countering terrorism at the local level has to go beyond JTTFs. Strengthening local partnerships within communities and reducing barriers to sharing information will be necessary to enhance these strategies.
About This Article
The research described in this article was supported by NIJ under contract DJO-NIJ-12006 awarded to the RAND Corporation.
This article is based on the grant report “Assessment of the State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training (SLATT) Program” (pdf, 119 pages).