State Police Streamline Homeland Security Response
West Trenton, NJ - A new branch of the New Jersey State Police took flight today at the Mercer County Airport. Governor James E. McGreevey, Attorney General Peter C. Harvey and State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes were joined by First Assistant Attorney General Edward M. Neafsey and Director of the Office of Counter Terrorism Sidney J. Casperson in introducing the State Police Homeland Security Branch to an audience surrounded by the tools of the trade including a bomb truck, an armored car and helicopters in a large airport hangar.
With the support of the Governor and Attorney General, Colonel Fuentes initiated the new branch to allow the State Police to coordinate statewide resources for a strong and fast response to emerging public safety threats. The branch will bring the Emergency Management Section and the newly established Special Operations Section under one command. This increases the state's capacity to respond to an elevated threat level or any event requiring the concerted efforts of law enforcement, intelligence and emergency response workers.
"It is critical that the brave men and women serving our State on the home front of the war against terrorism are given the tools they need to do their jobs," said McGreevey. "To support our State Police, we're upgrading our 9-1-1 systems, hiring 200 additional troopers, and providing 400 new trooper cars. Combined with the establishment of the new Homeland Security Branch, these statewide resources will further our efforts to protect New Jersey's families."
Under the direction of the Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force, the Division of State Police, working in partnership with the Office of Counter-Terrorism, has responded magnificently in performing homeland security duties, especially when the national alert level has been raised," said Attorney General Peter C. Harvey. "The new Homeland Security Branch will institutionalize and streamline State Police's response to these ongoing and increased security demands, and will better protect New Jersey's citizens as a result."
Colonel Rick Fuentes spoke about the positive effects this realignment will have for New Jersey's citizens. "This new branch gives us the unified, efficient command structure necessary to integrate our resources with our partners at the municipal, county and federal levels," said Fuentes. "It's the streamlining of a powerful force to add critical speed to our homeland security response."
Lt. Colonel Lori Hennon-Bell, Deputy Superintendent of Homeland Security, was placed in command of the new branch by Colonel Fuentes.
"The Homeland Security Branch enables us to answer any critical situation with a powerful and fast response," said Hennon-Bell. "The streamlined command structure gives us immediate access to the resources we need for any incident from a train wreck with a chemical spill to a hurricane."
A key component of the Homeland Security Branch is the 24-hour Command Operations Center. A command-level officer is always at this center with the authority to deploy the people and equipment needed for any situation. This officer has the ability to reach beyond those assigned to the branch and call on additional troopers from throughout the entire division.
"The new streamlined unit will be better prepared to allocate state resources based upon intelligence and threat information provided by the Office of Counter-Terrorism and our federal partners," said Sidney J. Caspersen, Director of the Office of Counter-Terrorism. "We look forward to continued work together to ensure that the citizens of New Jersey are protected."
The Homeland Security Branch (H.S.B.) is comprised of nine bureaus incorporating the most highly trained, mechanized State Police units performing a diverse array of services. They include Arson/Bomb, Canine, Hazardous Materials Response, Radiological Emergency Response, Aviation, Marine, T.E.A.M.S. (tactical unit), Urban Search and Rescue and many others. There are approximately 1,100 people, including 550 state troopers in the branch. Additionally, more than 210 members of Task Force One (urban search and rescue specialists) work under the direction of the H.S.B.
Previously, units such as the Arson/Bomb Unit reported to the Investigations Branch, while Marine Services and Aviation were under separate sections of the Field Operations Branch. This reorganization places the State Police assets most useful to homeland security incidents under one command. It also recognizes the potential impacts of commercial freight carriers on homeland security and incorporates operations focused on monitoring the shipping and trucking industries that are so important to New Jersey.
"This reorganization will allow State Police to coordinate an immediate deployment of its specialized law enforcement resources to assist local police in protecting the state's communities, families and critical facilities from potential terrorist attacks," said First Assistant Attorney General Edward M. Neafsey. "The realignment also streamlines the division's ability to immediately respond to an incident - whether emanating from a terrorist attack or a major catastrophe - with its full array of highly specialized assets."
A large group of invited guests listened to remarks by the speakers and then got a close-up view of some of the equipment of the Homeland Security Branch. Prior to the ceremony, the Pipes and Drums of the Blue and Gold filled the echoing hangar with traditional bagpipe music.
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