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'Deficiencies' Cited in L.A.'s Terrorism Fight

Safety: Councilman's report says city should boost its preparedness with more personnel, training and equipment.


With so many potential targets and the nation's second-largest population, the city of Los Angeles must quickly increase emergency personnel, training and equipment to counter the threat of terrorism, according to a detailed report to be released today.

The 50-page report, prepared by Los Angeles Councilman Jack Weiss, offers a variety of recommendations to address the "deficiencies" in the city's anti-terrorism preparedness.

Those deficiencies, the report states, range from inadequate funding for counterterrorism experts to the Fire Department's use of radiation detectors from Civil Defense kits dating from the 1950s.

"I guess the central message is that while it is true we are more prepared to fight terrorism than we were a year ago, serious deficiencies remain," Weiss said Wednesday. "But these deficiencies can be addressed."

Weiss, a member of the council's Public Safety Committee, said the report was compiled by his staff and based on interviews with city departments and outside experts to assess L.A.'s ability to prevent or respond to a terrorist incident.

"Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, ... officials responsible for public safety in the Los Angeles area must address a new threat environment, in which terrorists and criminals may strike with the sole purpose of creating terror and attacking our way of life," the report states.

Citing the communications problems in New York City that arose between police and fire officials responding to the attacks on the World Trade Center, the report said Los Angeles must ensure that its officers and firefighters have compatible radio equipment as well as transmission towers for providing instant communications with personnel from other agencies.

With $120 million already approved by voters for a new Emergency Operations Center, the report said, better communications are crucial to the city's ability to respond to acts of terrorism.

Also, the report said, Los Angeles must significantly increase staffing to provide a more efficient command structure as well as emergency personnel versed in anti-terrorism.

Specifically, it recommends nearly doubling the Los Angeles Police Department's Anti-Terrorist Division by adding 30 officers dedicated to full-time surveillance.

The report also suggests following New York City's lead in recruiting a national counterterrorism expert as well as hiring a new city director of homeland security to oversee the local response to anti-terrorism.

Among its other recommendations:

* Dramatically increase city spending to support the countywide Terrorism Early Warning Group to analyze terrorist threats in the region and coordinate plans for a response. Last year, the report said, total funding for the early warning agency was $1.8 million, while the cost to adequately staff, equip and train the personnel would require about $12 million a year.

* Expand the training of police and fire personnel who would be the first to respond in the event of a terrorist attack involving bombs or biological, chemical or radioactive weapons. While the Fire Department has one new hazardous materials team and the LAPD bomb squad has better equipment, the report said the city still needs to upgrade its radiation-detection equipment with at least one new detection system at each of the department's nearly 100 stations.

* Increase the city's coordination with the private sector, colleges and citizens' groups to take advantage of their expertise and ability to respond to disasters. UCLA's team of 20 radiation-safety experts, for instance, could be given emergency credentials that would permit the experts to enter LAPD crime scenes in the event of a "dirty bomb" attack.

The report does not offer a specific price tag for improving the city's anti-terrorism efforts.

Weiss said that was by design because the recommendations are a starting point for discussions by city lawmakers.

"This is a road map for a collaborative process between elected officials" and city departments, said Weiss, who will unveil the report today with other city officials.

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