The big new Ford Excursion sat baking in the hot afternoon sun. A closer look at this massive vehicle was chilling. Gun ports cut into the thick bullet-resistant glass windows. Armor-reinforced doors so heavy you needed two hands to close them. Rear seats removed to make room for stretchers.
This was the LAPD SWAT team's newest war wagon, to battle the bad guys and, if necessary, evacuate the wounded. It was all part of an unprecedented display of new equipment, firepower and high-tech crime-fighting tools the LAPD and its top brass had on display at the Edward M. Davis Firearms/Tactics Training Facility in Granada Hills on Aug. 29. The emphasis was on preparations for the anniversary of Sept. 11 and beyond.
The message from Interim Chief Martin Pomeroy was straightforward: "We think we are ready for anything that comes our way. We think we are much better prepared than we were a year ago because of all these recent acquisitions."
The chief's pleasant smile was quite a contrast to the deadly serious business behind him. He was standing in front of a variety of shotguns, automatic weapons and camouflage outfits. There were two huge mobile command posts, compact field labs so the Hazmat team can analyze powders on location; even the Underwater Dive Unit was there.
With the TV cameras, radio and newspapers invited to the demonstration, this was as much a very public message to potential terrorists as a way to reassure a jittery public. Remember though, the chief said, "I'm aware of nothing in particular, no specific danger or intelligence of any kind to indicate we're any more at risk in the next two weeks than we've been in the last several months."
The man in charge of Sept. 11 anniversary preparations for the LAPD is Cmdr. Mark Leap, who right away pointed out that police have been working closely with the Jewish Community. "The LAPD has been consistent in providing professional consultation regarding security at Jewish institutions," noted John Fishel, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. "We feel we have a true partner in the community on which we can depend."
With the High Holidays wrapping around the anniversary, nothing is more urgent. Leap said the police have come up with a list of 450 possible terrorist targets in Los Angeles. He discussed LAX and the Port of Los Angeles, and confirmed that synagogues and other Jewish facilities like community centers are on the list. "We're ready we have the equipment, we have the personnel and the plans have been made," Leap said. For obvious reasons, these kinds of security plans and preparations are not widely discussed, however the LAPD has these specifics in place:
Police are on "Maximum Deployment." No one is off-duty;
Patrol officers have been increased by one-third;
The Tactical Operations Center is up and running with the Bomb Squad, SWAT, Hazmat, Underwater Dive Unit and K-9 team, all on alert and staged in a central location;
Response time to an incident anywhere in the city is designed to be less than 20 minutes;
Up to 20,000 additional officers from other jurisdictions are available within four hours;
Departments of Water and Power, Public Works, Transportation, Fire and other city agencies are coordinating with the LAPD.
"There's no doubt about the fact they are more prepared today than they were a year ago," said Joe Knoller, co-owner and president of Nastec International, a security firm that has among its clients numerous synagogues and other Jewish organizations. "To what depth does it go in terms of plans for specific facilities, they are not sharing that with us."