Calling it "the experience of a lifetime," Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank recently returned to work after attending a hands-on, weeklong counterterrorism training course in Israel.
Burbank was one of more than a dozen U.S. police chiefs selected for the session, which was sponsored and completely paid for by the Anti-Defamation League and also included visits to religious sites.
The chief said he was amazed to see what both the police and residents of places like Jerusalem and Hebron go through on a daily basis. What stood out to him was their resilience and their devotion to living as normal a life as possible despite the constant threat of bombings.
After a terrorist incident, the police and residents "got life back to normal as soon as they could," he said. In one town, Burbank said, the guide pointed to sites of past suicide-bombing attacks at almost every other building they passed. But one would never know today because of the effort to rebuild immediately, he said.
Although the likelihood of a terrorist attack in Salt Lake City is dramatically less than in Israel, Burbank said he took many lessons away from his trip.
"At the end of the day, to prevent terrorism is really a local law enforcement problem," he said.
Burbank said he was impressed with an extensive video camera system set up around all of the cities he visited. He doesn't believe a "Big Brother" program would work in Utah, and he doesn't want one. But Burbank said an increased use of surveillance cameras might be something to look at locally.
Another idea he came away with was that his investigators should process crime scenes more quickly and allow residents to resume their usual daily lives.
Burbank said he also would like to improve his department's intelligence gathering as another way to battle crime.
Burbank said the tragedy at Trolley Square went through his mind while he was learning how police deal with terrorists in Israel.
"I never felt like I was in grave danger," he said of the trip. "But there were things that make you a little nervous."
The most nervous moment came in the West Bank when he and the others were loaded into an armored bus with bulletproof windows, the way all of the soldiers stationed there drive to work every day. Police in Israel have to take a different approach to law enforcement, in many cases tossing aside civil rights, he said. "It's (a point) I hope we never get to."The main thought Burbank said he took away from the trip was he wanted his department to be prepared for anything. But also, "at the end of the day, we do things pretty well here."
E-mail: [email protected]