Applying Law Enforcement Technology to Counterinsurgency Operations

Article excerpt


In 1994, Rudolph Giuliani assumed duties as the mayor of New York, taking over a city with one of the highest crime rates in America--a problem he promised to address. To meet this challenge, he expanded the number of police officers on his force, surged them to neighborhood beats, and enabled them to overcome unfamiliarity with the local geography and demography by arming them with information technology solutions, providing each beat cop with a type of "virtual longevity" normally requiring months to develop. (1)

Half a decade later, a similar situation faced the Chicago Police Department. Chicago also leveraged information technology effectively, surging the "equivalent of 300 officers on the street." (2) The Chicago system, the Citizen and Law Enforcement Analysis Reporting (CLEAR) system, created this "virtual surge" and arguably contributed to an unprecedented drop in violent crime within Chicago. At the time (October 2005), the Chicago Sun-Times noted that "Chicago officials and academics have credited the city's murder decline to police targeting of gangs, drugs, and guns." (3)

The parallels between the problems experienced by two major cities where gang violence, organized crime, and illicit financing overwhelmed local security forces, and the challenges facing our coalition forces in Iraq, are striking--as is one potential tool to address those challenges.

In 2007, Iraq and Afghanistan find themselves torn by insurgency, sectarian violence, and terrorism. Instead of gang violence, warlords, tribes, sectarian death squads, and terrorist cells dominate urban landscapes akin to New York and Chicago. Instead of drugs alone, terrorist financing includes narcotics, extortion, and highly developed financial networks using porous borders and symbiotic affiliations to protect major actors. Instead of just guns, the forces arrayed against the coalition include improvised explosive devices and heavy weapons. In an especially chilling development, insurgent efforts not only continue but also increasingly extend across the borders between the two countries where thugs, terrorists, and opportunists support the chaos serving as a foundation for their individual causes. (4)


In this violent no man's land between those contending for power sit our forces and the Iraqi populace whom we have sworn to protect. Our rotating, shifting, and surging forces are unable to develop their situational awareness rapidly enough to penetrate the insular demographic within which the terrorist operates, and the Iraqi people are unable to expose the enemy from within that demographic. The terrorists swim within familiar waters, not as another fish--as Mao might describe--but as predators ready to devour anything threatening their existence.


Two key phrases mentioned above comprise the foundation for potential crossover of police techniques into counterinsurgency operations: insular demographic and situational awareness (SA). For the Solider in Al Anbar and the cop in Chicago, the ability to peer through the insular demographic--to know who is who, who belongs, and who does not; to see through disguises or aliases--unlocks the door to basic security. Similarly, strong situational awareness--the ability to recognize the presence of the abnormal or absence of the normal--provides an indispensable and intuitive warning mechanism.

A closer look at four factors preventing our forces from developing the intuitive and concrete sensing necessary to penetrate an enemy's defenses lends to understanding why law enforcement technology may provide a unique solution.

Force Rotation. Without technical enhancements, units require 30 to 60 days of consistent presence to develop comprehensive SA in an area in order to gauge conditions, patterns, and personalities for intuitive force protection and defensive operational effectiveness. …


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