Wayne State Chief of Police travels to Israel to learn situational awareness tactics to protect students and the greater Detroit area.
By Anthony Holt
Recently, I had the privilege of representing Wayne State University and the greater Midtown area as a member of the Law Enforcement/Federation Security Detroit delegation. Our group of six joined other delegations in Israel hailing from Cleveland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
Funded by the Israel Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, the seven-day training regimen proved to be one of the most intense and eye-opening immersion activities that I have experienced during my 42-year law enforcement career.
The daily 10-hour training covered a wide swath of topics, including coping with terrorism threats, anti-Semitism as a global terror threat, connection between community and security/emergency forces, terror in the State of Israel from the perspective of a senior commander in the field, Judaism in the diaspora, simulation exercises and numerous other critical points of discussion.
We participated in several facility tours, including the Police Control Center for Jerusalem (Old City) and a police security training center. I was particularly moved by briefings from a Pittsburgh Police Department SWAT commander and a Jewish Federation security director regarding the Tree of Life synagogue shooting.
There were numerous lessons learned and other takeaways that emerged from the training sessions. Overall, I developed a deeper understanding of how to employ situational awareness — being aware of our surroundings throughout the day and watchful of any warning signs.
I am reminded of a particularly gruesome and heartbreaking story regarding a type of suicide bombing. Terrorists have employed the horrific practice of strapping a bomb around a child in a stroller and then leaving the stroller unattended. Unsuspecting bystanders approach the child to offer assistance; then the bomb is detonated, killing the child and several onlookers.
Also included as part of the situational awareness training are the targets of opportunity, the destinations and venues that are popular for terrorists to practice their deadly maneuvers. In Israel, buses, light-rail stops and the entry gates to the Old City of Jerusalem are prime targets. These locations have been singled out for knife attacks, vehicular attacks and the use of improvised explosives.
Israel’s leadership, military, law enforcement agencies and citizens represent an international model for preventing and battling the challenges of terrorism. Israel, as a nation, is top tier in terms of prevention and overall security. Other nations around the globe can learn from Israel’s law enforcement practices and overall preparedness of the citizens.
Poring over my notes on the long flight home, I was reminded of the importance of preparedness and situational awareness — not just in Israel, but also globally and locally.
At Wayne State University, the safety of our students and staff has always been a priority, a charge that our police department (WSUPD) focuses on 24/7. The reach of WSUPD includes not only the campus, but also the greater Midtown Detroit area — all neighbors and members of our community.
Our highly trained officers engage the community, patrol campus and surrounding areas, offer important safety resources and respond to emergencies. WSUPD plays a vital role in making Wayne State a welcoming home, school and workplace for thousands of people.
It is gratifying that Israel and the United States continue to share law enforcement strategies in the fight against terrorism. The cooperative spirit that we experienced as part of the Detroit delegation in Israel was outstanding.
I am grateful to all of the parties, in particular the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, for their efforts in making the training available.
Anthony Holt is the Wayne State University Chief of Police.