Unity Against a Sniper

'As we learn things, we adjust and improve," says Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose of the 1,000 officer-strong effort to find the Washington, D.C., area sniper. Those simple watchwords, played out in the manhunt that became wider after the latest shooting, are a useful reminder to those involved in law enforcement.

Despite some missteps, the wide search has shown a high level of flexibility, coordination, and speed among local, state, and federal officials. The sniper case, with attacks in several counties, forced such cross-jurisdictional efforts.

The work of so many agencies is a model of how the proposed federal department of homeland security should operate – if Congress ever gets around to creating one.

The national capital area already had begun to coordinate its regional antiterrorism efforts since Sept. 11. That no doubt helped boost the regional effort to capture the sniper.

In fact, the massive manhunt has looked much like the type of joint terrorism task force being expanded by the FBI. Begun as a pilot program in New York City, it's now branched out to some 56 cities.

Better coordination and communication between the CIA and FBI before Sept. 11, might have foiled the would-be hijackers of the four planes. That hard and difficult lesson is being absorbed nationwide as law enforcement officials improve their preparedness and try to overcome any turf-protecting behavior that could hinder crime fighting and prevention.

Unity of purpose is essential between law enforcement agencies when a threat crosses many boundaries.

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