Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Monday, September 19, 2005

What Went Wrong in St. Charles Parish?

On Saturday, September 17, 2005, The Spokesman Review published an article headlined Red tape frustrates law officers by staff writer James Hagengruber.

The article reported how benevolent employees in Idaho's Shoshone and Bonner County sheriffs departments had gathered money and supplies which they intended to personally deliver to Louisiana law enforcement agencies dealing with Hurricane Katrina. Shoshone and Bonner county deputies were also offering to perform law enforcement duties in Louisiana. According to Shoshone County Sheriff Reynalds, the employees were responding to a call for assistance from Louisiana's St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne. The article described how things went badly wrong once the Idaho officers arrived in Louisiana.

The newspaper story did not explain one detail crucial to understanding the apparent snafu: How was Sheriff Champagne's request communicated to Bonner and Shoshone counties?

That detail is important, because the State of Idaho has agreed to follow a specific national emergency procedure in place to facilitate, not frustrate, precisely the kind of interstate cooperation the Shoshone and Bonner deputies wanted to deliver to their law enforcement counterparts in St. Charles Parish. It is an interstate compact that Idaho codified at Idaho Code Title 46, Chapter 10. The compact, known federally as the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), was passed by the US Congress in 1996 as Public Law 104-321.

Here is the EMAC request message sent by the Ohio Emergency Management Agency to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. It is an example of how that state's EMAC coordinator processed a Louisiana request for law enforcement officers.

On the other hand, a September 14, 2005, online letter from the National Sheriff's Association Katrina Relief Coordinator to that group's members suggested that the EMAC had not worked as well as everyone expected.

Procedures like the EMAC work best when they are followed. Did the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security, Idaho's EMAC coordinator, receive Louisiana's EMAC request and then send a message similar to Ohio's to all Idaho law enforcement agencies? It should have. The agencies, including Shoshone and Bonner County Sheriffs Departments, should have responded with specific information about what people and supplies they could provide. If the Bonner and Shoshone County Sheriffs Department's offer of assistance was accepted, they would have been given specific instructions what to send and how to proceed.

Did that happen? If not, where did it break down? Did the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security not send out the message? Were Sheriffs Savage and Reynalds unaware of Idaho Code 46, Chapter 10, and the procedures imposed by the EMAC?

It's important for Idaho to find out if something went wrong somewhere in Idaho and fix it. The next disaster could be here, and it would behoove Idaho's public administrators to know the process and procedures for obtaining and coordinating assistance under EMAC.


Blogger stebbijo said...

I would like to know the fine details, here as well.

11:30 AM, September 19, 2005  

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