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Suicide Bombers: Are You Ready?

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 74 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2007 Pages: 24,26-29,31
Sheri H. Mecklenburg
Date Published
September 2007
6 pages
This article discusses legal and operational issues involved in countering suicide bombers in the United States, including local law enforcement tools for combatting terrorism, as well as policy and practice in the use of deadly force against a suspected suicide bomber.
Suicide bombings planned and executed by local terrorist cells at major public facilities is a primary strategy promoted by al Qaeda among those committed to its cause. Countering this strategy of breeding local terrorists for suicide bombings requires that local law enforcement agencies play a greater role in detecting and preventing such attacks. Local police must be trained to conduct prompt investigations of citizen tips about suspicious behavior and be alert to signs of terrorist plots in such routine activities as traffic stops. Dogs trained to detect bombs can be used at traffic stops if the initial stop is lawful, if the use of the dogs does not prolong the stop, and if the dogs are trained to detect only contraband. This means that local law enforcement agencies must have canine units on the scene in advance, rather than bringing in bomb-sniffing dogs while the driver is detained for a long period. This article also discusses the use of roadblocks that include measures for detecting bomb materials. Legal issues involved in searches at public events are also discussed. Despite the best intelligence, detection, and prevention, however, there is likely to be a time when front-line local police officers will confront a suicide bomber prior to the bomb's detonation. The article discusses the various legal issues involved in using pre-emptive deadly force against a suicide bomber, since issuing a warning in itself may encourage bombers to detonate the bomb sooner, which gives officers even less time to assess their options.