A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT
Edmonton Police counter-terrorism strategy is progressing well
by Tony Palermo
A new counter-terrorism strategy released in May by the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) has been progressing well, says Insp. Chad Tawfik.
The strategy "has involved ongoing collaborative efforts with our partners in law enforcement, including the RCMP Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET), as well as building upon our existing community engagement and partnerships."
Tawfik says the EPS developed the strategy in response to a growing number of national events and areas requiring increased attention.
"It wasn't any one specific incident that prompted the creation of the counter-terrorism strategy, but, let's face it, we can't pretend that the threat doesn't exist anymore," he explains.
A 2015 Senate interim committee report warned Canadians must be vigilant because violent extremism is a real threat to our way of life. The committee was told 93 Canadians were identified as seeking to join Islamist extremist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al Qaeda, Boko Harem and al Shabaab; 80 radicalized Canadians participated with terrorists overseas and then returned to Canada; and approximately 145 Canadians were believed to be abroad supporting terrorist groups.
Those numbers have since increased, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director, Michel Coulombe told the committee in the spring.
The EPS counter-terrorism strategy document states terrorist threats have evolved and become more diverse and decentralized, as seen in recent lone terrorist attacks. Threats include criminal incidents and events that may result in injuries, death or property loss; domestic or home-grown extremists who spread propaganda, recruit others, provide money and other resources, or who participate in related criminal activities; and high-risk travellers who travel abroad to participate in terrorist-related activities.
Taking a balanced approach, the strategy doesn't just limit operations to those already involved in terrorist activities but also aims to keep at-risk individuals from being drawn into radical extremist ideology. It aligns closely with Public Safety Canada's counter-terrorism strategy and is structured around three key components: prevention, intervention and suppression.
The prevention component encompasses community outreach and building relationships to help understand diverse communities and individuals who are motivated to engage in terrorist activities.
Recognizing that everyone has a responsibility to keep their community safe, the EPS strives to establish understanding, trust and opens lines of communication, empowering citizens to feel they can take an active role in preventing terrorist threats.
Intervention involves intelligence-related activities while still keeping pace with a changing cyber environment, the proliferation of more sophisticated weaponry, emerging telecommunications trends and the accelerated flow of people, resources and ideas from around the world.
The EPS Strategic Intelligence Unit is the conduit between the force and the RCMP-led Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) and other partner agencies. It maintains the integrity of investigations and ensures there are no gaps in sharing information.
Recognizing that police take a leading role in investigating and suppressing terrorist activities, the EPS strategy also ensures that any police response is carefully designed to manage the actual threat while minimizing interference with the public.
While comprehensive in its design, Tawfik emphasises that community outreach and public involvement is critical. Terrorism thrives on fear. While it's important to reduce the overall frequency and severity of crime, he stresses it's equally important to involve the community to reduce the fear and perception of crime.
"It's important to understand that this is a socially based issue," explains Tawfik. "Law enforcement is just one part of the solution. It's very important for us to build trust and ongoing relationships in the community because it doesn't matter whether we're talking about terrorist threats or any other crime, tackling it really has to be a collaborative effort."
Terrorism is a serious and persistent threat to the safety and security of Canada and its citizens. Terrorist activity includes an act or omission undertaken, inside or outside Canada, for a political, religious or ideological purpose that is intended to intimidate the public with respect to its security, including its economic security, or to compel a person, government or organization (whether inside or outside Canada) from doing or refraining from doing any act, and that intentionally causes one of a number of specified forms of serious harm. (Public Safety Canada)
The RCMP has the primary legislated responsibility for national security related criminal threats in Canada in partnership with intelligence and other law enforcement agencies. The EPS works with the RCMP through INSET and contributes significantly to developing and sustaining an effective integrated national security network. The EPS Counter-Terrorism Strategy focuses the efforts of law enforcement to ensure decisive action is taken toward threats that pose a risk to our community. To succeed, efforts are not limited to operations directed at groups or individuals already involved in terrorist activities, but are also preventative and aimed at keeping at-risk individuals from being drawn into destructive ideology.
The core objective is to build resilience against terrorism.
Understanding the Threat: There are many terrorist organizations that are designated as security threats and known to be operating in Canada. Terrorist threats have evolved into being more decentralized, as seen in recent lone terrorist attacks, and include threats that are increasingly diverse. Threats manifest themselves in a variety of ways, including:
Domestic or home-grown extremists are citizens or long term residents of Canada that identify themselves with extremist beliefs. Extremists may contribute to the problem by:
Participating in disseminating propaganda and/or demonstrations;
Providing capital or instrumental resources;
Assisting to recruit others; or
Through criminal activism.
High-risk travelers are radicalized individuals who travel abroad to participate in terrorist related activities. As the number of persons identified as possible or past high-risk travelers increases, so does the risk of terrorism incidents occurring in our communities. Revoked passports of potential high-risk travelers may further increase risk to our communities.
Domestic criminal incidents are events that may result in injuries, deaths or property loss. Potential targets for domestic incidents of terrorism include critical infrastructure, which refers to processes, systems, facilities, technologies, networks, assets and services essential to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians and the effective functioning of government. A potential target would not necessarily be focused on critical infrastructure or a location designated as a key asset. Other targets may include largely populated events/locations or those that may be of high political or media exposure. Recent terrorist events within Canada and internationally also illustrate that targets may appear to be more isolated and random.
The EPS Counter-Terrorism Strategy has three key components which are necessary to achieve its core objective of building resilience against terrorism. The ultimate goal is a city where individuals and communities are able to withstand violent extremist ideologies, and where society is resilient to a terrorist attack, if one occurs.
Prevention Community Outreach / Prevent
This component focuses on the motivations of individuals who engage in, or have the potential to engage in, terrorist activities at home and abroad. In order to be effective, the EPS must build and maintain relationships and partnerships with diverse communities to establish mutual understanding and trust.
Community outreach and engagement will work toward public safety and address threats by building law enforcement's knowledge and understanding of diverse communities. This will help establish trust and build a conduit for positive communication.
Citizens also have a responsibility to act and to build strong and supportive local communities. Together we can make certain all of Edmonton's communities are respected and treated equally.
The EPS Equity, Diversity and Human Rights (EDHR) Section was developed to focus on building relationships with Edmonton's diverse communities. It is not about simply targeting individuals that may be susceptible to being radicalized to violence; rather it is about building respect, confidence and providing support so our city is inclusive of everyone in support of public safety. This is not a role only for EDHR, as relationship building is a duty for all EPS members.
Historically, intelligence has focused on identifying terrorists, terrorist organizations and their supporters, capabilities and the nature of their plans. As the terrorist threat changes it is important for law enforcement to be responsive to that change. Drivers, such as globalization, rapid technological change and an increasingly networked society create new and different vulnerabilities that terrorists seek to exploit. It is important to keep pace with a changing cyber environment, the proliferation of more sophisticated weaponry, emerging telecommunication trends and the accelerated flow of people, resources and ideas around the world.
By focusing efforts on intelligence, the EPS will stay abreast of current trends and risks, as well as ensuring communication flows between the EPS and its agency partners. The EPS Strategic Intelligence Unit (SIU) is the conduit between police information and intelligence to the RCMP-led INSET, other law enforcement partners and CSIS. SIU ensures there are no gaps in sharing information and ensures law enforcement efforts are coordinated, deconflicted, and the integrity of investigations are maintained.
Suppression Investigations/Deny and Respond
Terrorist activities are criminal acts and the investigation of those acts will continue to be led by police. In order to guarantee a proportionate and measured response, the actions taken will be carefully designed to manage the actual threat, while minimizing interference with the public as people go about their daily activities.
The EPS currently has members seconded to INSET, multi-agency teams made up of specially trained members of the RCMP and other law enforcement and national security partners at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. The INSET model provides a cohesive, integrated approach to ensure prevention, early detection and investigation of any potential national-security criminal threats to Canada and the public.
Preparedness is another key factor to success. Dedicated resources are essential to complete and augment an effective and efficient response to terrorism threats. This area of focus further enables a rapid return to ordinary life and reduces the impact and severity of terrorist activity.
The key components of the strategy are to incorporate a broad range of policing duties that are the responsibility of every police officer and not just specialized areas. For example, police first responders could participate with community engagement, routinely gather intelligence or be required for an active police response or investigation at any moment. The EPS has formalized work processes to ensure effective prevention, intervention and suppression processes are in place.
Alignment with other Strategies
The EPS strategy is closely aligned with Public Safety Canada's Strategy on Counter-Terrorism, which has four mutually reinforcing elements – Prevent - Detect - Deny - Respond. The functions of these elements are aligned to the EPS Counter-Terrorism key components of Prevention - Intervention - Suppression.
The EPS strategy fits within the organization's Violence Reduction Strategy (VRS), based on the premise that if we work to impact root causes of violence, we will be successful in decreasing violence overall within our community