HAVERHILL, Mass. — In a 40-year law enforcement career spent in three states, Haverhill police Chief Alan DeNaro has had a lot of training.
But nothing compares to the experience he and 14 other Massachusetts law enforcement officials received in Israel earlier this month.
Selected to go on the trip in August, DeNaro joined police chiefs from communities such as Somerville, Watertown, Worcester, and Foxborough, state police officials and U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz for an intensive, nine-day trip which took them all over the 8,000-square-mile nation, which is home to roughly 9 million people.
The Massachusetts delegation was in Israel from Dec. 3-12.
During the annual trip, which the Anti-Defamation League has funded for more than a decade, DeNaro and his fellow Bay State lawmen were briefed by commanders in the Israeli military and police forces on law enforcement and terror suppression tactics they employ.
“I’ve been to Quantico, Virginia, to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s training academy, to command colleges in Florida,” he said. “It’s the best training I’ve received. I was beyond excited to go.”
Traveling around Israel for a little over a week, DeNaro, who has been Haverhill’s police chief for 15 years, got to see firsthand the daily realities of the Israeli people, the lone majority Jewish state in the Middle East.
One of the focal points of the trip was to share techniques and methods for combating terrorism, a daily reality for Israel. The Massachusetts delegation was also able to visit Israel’s municipal police academy to see how officers are trained and the trip allowed for an exchange of ideas between Israeli and Massachusetts law enforcement.
Military service is compulsory in Israel, and all police officers in the country are required to have served at least three years, said DeNaro, which gives their officers a leg up in certain instances.
Beginning their days at 7 a.m. and finishing for the day at 11:30 p.m., the Massachusetts delegation’s days were packed with instruction. Daily briefings and seminars were held around the country, giving DeNaro and his fellow chiefs the rare opportunity to visit the West Bank, East Jerusalem, as well as the country’s border with Syria.
“What we learned is that every place is vulnerable. There’s no place that’s 100 percent terror proof,” said DeNaro, adding that as terror cells such as ISIS have been decimated, individual terrorists remain a threat everywhere.
“There’s a lot of lone wolf stuff still. Someone who has become fanatical and uses a knife or a gun or a vehicle,” he said, referencing a recent attack in New York City.
Some of the tactics conveyed by the Israeli forces were actually employed by city police during the city’s annual Santa Parade last month, in which Haverhill police strategically placed vehicles to block off alley ways a terrorist could potentially use to sneak into a public place and hurt spectators.
Protecting a building or event is referred to in law enforcement parlance as hardening a target, a concept emphasized by Israeli forces during the training trip.
It was the first time in the parade’s 53 years that such tactics were deployed, but DeNaro said they will be par for the course going forward.
“These are good, safe practices and we want to get our officers in that mindset,” he said. “Some of the skills and techniques they taught us, we want to bring them to our departments to get our officers to think differently about how we approach people, harden targets and make major events and gatherings safer.
“We may not have the Rockingham Mall here or Gillette Stadium, but we have parades, River Ruckus, smaller events where this sort of planning will be beneficial,” DeNaro added.
Haverhill’s chief left Israel impressed by the way the Israelis refuse to allow the constant threat of terrorism under which they live dictate their way of life, even though all new building construction in the country requires the construction of a bombproof “safe room.”
“They’re in a very tenuous position and they sleep with one eye open. They don’t let terror define them,” he said. “Israel warned us over a decade ago that this was coming, that people would be using cars and bombs. They’re the experts on dealing with that, so bringing that expertise here is crucial.
“We always have to keep learning,” he said. “Because the status quo is not acceptable in law enforcement.”
Information from: Eagle Tribune (North Andover, Mass.), http://www.eagletribune.com