Fusion Centres as a Law Enforcement Tool
Write a 2- to 3-page paper. In the paper:
Take a definitive stand, with explanations, for or against the use of fusion centers as a local law enforcement tool.
Discuss how these centers may be abused to violate citizen rights.
Explain the difference between the cooperation that occurs through fusion centers and that through other kinds of multiagency activities, such as task forces and joint investigations.
Identify and discuss the possible steps or policies to minimize concerns that some have raised about potential abuses.
Feel free to do additional research on the topic of fusion centers, beyond the reading that has been assigned to further improve your paper.
Since the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, there has been a real push in local law enforcement agencies—especially large ones—to incorporate intelligence-led policing techniques.
A part of that strategy has been the creation of fusion centers in all fifty states intended to facilitate the sharing of police intelligence information between federal, state, and local agencies. Consider the Lambert (2010) article, “Intelligence-Led Policing in a Fusion Center” and the “US Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report on Fusion Centers” in the Webliography. (Pasted below)
The creation of fusion centers and their operations have not been without controversy. Many civil libertarians have expressed concern that instead of focusing only on real threats, fusion centers encourage the government’s suspicion toward law-abiding citizens and groups that are suspected of potential hostility toward government.
Fusion Centres as a Law Enforcement Tool
There has been an emerging trend in American law enforcement known as Fusion Centres. These institutions operate at the local, regional and state levels by pooling together information from law enforcement agencies drawn from the three regions (Heaton, 2009). Initially, the main aim of these fusion centres was to share information amongst the law enforcement agencies on issues like terrorism. The idea was to pool all relevant intelligence data in one place where analysts would help to come up with potential solutions to mitigate the threats. The focus on antiterrorism has gradually metamorphosed into an entire array of hazards and crimes. The information that is required in many fusion centres today is not limited to criminal intelligence alone.
Fusion centres have shifted from purely criminal information and are now gathering data from the public and private sector as well (Heaton, 2009). There is an enormous amount of information that is collected by these fusion centres, especially now that the risk of terrorism activities is at an all-time high. Due to this intensive collection of information, concerns have been raised about the privacy of Americans. These concerns are based on the fact that these fusion centres collect a lot of private data on Americans in both public and private sectors. All this private information is gathered without considering whether the individuals are suspects or not (Heaton, 2009). There is the general feeling that Americans are being watched and monitored in their daily lives. Since the focus is not on antiterrorism anymore, people are concerned about what all this personal data is for. There have been concerns regarding some private companies, which are not part of law enforcement, that are involved in the pooling of information in the fusion centres. Americans are worried about their private information being in the hands of these private companies and what they could do with the said information.
There is little to no public accountability in these fusion centres. They operate in almost unrestricted ways to collect their information. Fusion centres often overstep laws that are meant to safeguard the privacy of American citizens. There have been reports on the way these centres abuse civil liberties by spying on people who they consider to be a threat. It may be an individual community, racial minority or even a political activist that is put under illegal scrutiny just because the government considers them to be threats.
Traditionally, when a task force was created, it aimed at eradicating a particular problem. A good example is the DEA which is a task force that is only involved in the drug trade. Fusion centres are not limited to antiterrorism, as seen earlier, but cover a wide array. The scale of cooperation in fusion centres is huge since information is shared across the state, regional and federal. Taskforces are usually limited by state or federal jurisdiction.
The government has the first responsibility of
making sure that private information of Americans remains private. It can be
said that they have played their role by ensuring that fusion centres don’t
hold on to data unnecessarily. 28 CFR Part 23 of the federal regulatory code
requires the fusion centres to have probable cause to keep information on
individuals (Masse, O’Neil, & Rollins, 2008). Oversight boards have also
been instituted to maintain the fusion centres in check. The control is
responsible for ensuring that fusion centres follow the laid down guidelines.
They also help in developing proper policies, checks and balances to ensure
they protect the privacy of Americans.
Masse, T., O’Neil, S., & Rollins, J. (2008). Information and intelligence (including terrorism) fusion centres. New York: Nova Science Publishers.
Heaton, R. (2009). Intelligence-Led Policing and Volume Crime Reduction. Policing, 3(3), 292-297. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/police/pap018