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LAPD's coming to study Mumbai attacks
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
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Coverage: Mumbai terror attacks
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December 10, 2008 11:29 IST

Los Angeles Police Department Counter-Terrorism and Criminal Intelligence Commanding Officer Michael P Downing will lead a small delegation, including executive, investigative, and tactical officers to Mumbai, 'to learn, observe, and bring back best practices to LAPD,' and to disseminate to other major cities to help guard against Mumbai-like terrorist attacks on American soft targets.

In an interview with, Downing said, "We have got a good team assembled --myself and SWAT members, and an intelligence lieutenant and a detective working in robbery/homicide department who hails from Mumbai, has a family here and knows the language and the lay of the land (Downing was, however, reticent to reveal his identity)."

"The delegation is going to Mumbai to observe, learn as much as we can about what went right, what went wrong, and what we can do better, and also to establish longer-term relationships with our counterparts and learn from each other and see if we can impart and help out in any way we can," he said.

When reminded that there was much criticism of the lack of security and intelligence, Downing said, "No one is infallible -- We have made plenty of mistakes and we are still trying to change our cultures so that we work better together. We have come a long way since 9/11, but we've an awfully long way to go."

"What we are experiencing now in the 21st century is no longer a domestic problem of individual countries. It's really an international phenomena that affects us all," he said.

Downing said, "What happens in Mumbai directly impacts us in Los Angeles. We have people that live in Los Angeles and have family from Mumbai -- they are there."

"So the tactics that were used, tactics that evolve and change depending on the opportunities they have. We are interested in that and we are also in creating relationships with our counterparts there because we always look at what is happening in the global landscape and apply that to the local landscape. Then we make adjustments in our critical decision-making and our intelligence cycles in the way we protect our critical infrastructure and how we deploy our people," he said.

Downing said, "We have already done an analysis (of the Mumbai attacks) from what we understand, but there is nothing like being on the ground, talking to the people that are actually involved and seeing the targets and the entries and making an assessment. Then, bringing those lessons back to Los Angeles and imparting them on our counter-terrorism command and our private sector partners."

He said similarities between Mumbai, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and other major US cities were not just the soft targets, "but also the preventive piece to this -- we are trying really to create a culture both in the police department and in the private sector -- of first preventor culture -- so that we can set trip-wires up all over our community through human and technical means. As soon as we get a trip-wire, we react with lightning speed and put things into place to prevent things from happening."

Downing acknowledged that among these trip-wires could also be information on sleeper-cells, because no one believed that the Mumbai carnage was the work of just 10 terrorists and it was a no-brainer that local assistance was available.

"And, so, we are trying to create this culture so that we can react and you know, it's inevitable -- I am sure that the United States is going to be hit," he predicted.

Downing said that as in New York and other major US cities, which have been conducting mock terror attacks akin to what really took place in Mumbai, "We have been doing similar things here in trying to better understand how to adjust our resources and our critical decision-making."

He said, "We are in the process of building a virtual simulator, which actually tests our critical decision-making abilities called the Hydra system -- it is under the kind of the auspices of the Greek mythology where when you shear off the head, multiple heads pop up making it worse than what you had before kind of thing."

"So, the idea behind it is to really critically evaluate the problem and come up with a strategic solution so that you don't create more problems than you originally started with."

Downing said, "We are installing that as we speak and it will be the first in the United States to have that up."

He said that he and others in the Department were also in touch with their counterparts in major US cities to prevent a kind of Mumbai attack.

"We have a major cities' chief intelligence commanders group where we have created a network between the 64 major cities in the United States and we share information, we share best practices. We are in touch with each other all the time."

Downing said, "Together we have produced a paper called the 12 tenets to prevent crime and terrorism and suggestions on what we should do to make our country even safer. So we work on projects like that all the time."

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