The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security assured Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton and leaders of six other police agencies Monday that his office is taking steps to improve the sharing of intelligence data on potential terrorist threats against municipalities.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff met with the chiefs in his Washington, D.C., office after some publicly expressed frustration that they had not received timely and high-quality information from federal authorities.
Chertoff called the meeting to listen to the chiefs' concerns, and said afterward through a spokesman that he believes new joint intelligence centers, including one recently opened by his department with the LAPD in Southern California, will improve the sharing of data.
"The secretary said it was a very positive and constructive dialogue and would serve to strengthen coordination," said Jarrod Agen, a spokesman for Chertoff.
The meeting also was attended by the chiefs or other high-ranking representatives of the Washington Metropolitan, Maryland State, Virginia State, Chicago and Charlotte, N.C., police departments.
Bratton could not be reached for comment after Monday's meeting, but he said Friday that he expected the session with Chertoff to improve communications between federal security officials and departments that have assigned staff to work at Homeland Security offices.
"For quite some time we have been working with Homeland Security to increase the access and timeliness and content of the information that we get from Homeland Security relative to threats to our respective cities," Bratton said.
Earlier this year, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa complained that federal officials didn't give him an in-depth briefing before President Bush made a statement on a terrorist threat to the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles.
Bratton has been encouraged by last month's opening of a Joint Regional Intelligence Center in Norwalk, where law enforcement agencies will work together to coordinate intelligence gathering and analysis to thwart terrorists. The center includes 30 intelligence analysts from the FBI, LAPD and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, among others.
But Bratton told reporters before he left for Washington that he also wants LAPD officers assigned to the Homeland Security offices in the nation's capital to be kept in the loop when there is breaking information that affects L.A.
"We are hoping that this meeting with Secretary Chertoff will convince him to increase the access we have to all intelligence gathering by our personnel who are assigned to his offices in Washington," the chief said.