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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

145 N Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20530

October 2021 | Volume 14 | Issue 10

Violent extremism is nothing new. One need only recall the massacre of 168 people by Timothy McVeigh, who blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, to realize that.

What is new is the scope, the variety, and the gravity of the threats. According to a white paper released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in March 2021, violent extremism is growing at an alarming pace, posing a heightened threat to our nation.

Just two months later, a National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned that these threats have evolved significantly, becoming increasingly complex and volatile.

Moreover, both these documents note that the danger comes mostly from homegrown terrorists—United States–based individuals and groups engaged in grievance-based violence.

A Growing but Elusive Threat

But other than knowing U.S.-based extremism is on the rise, there is no way to quickly identify them; they come in all genders, ages, races, and ethnicities.

And their extremism also takes many forms: religious, racial, political, and environmental, to name a few. Some terrorists are lone wolves driven by personal grievances; others are influenced by foreign actors who want to harm our country.

And since most of their activities take place online, detecting them isn’t easy. Good intelligence from sources on the ground is critical—and that’s where local, state, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) law enforcement comes in.

Through their community relationships, police officers and sheriff’s deputies have the eyes and ears necessary to detect these individuals as well as the capabilities for preventing them from acting on their intentions.

DHS’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3)

Recognizing the importance of local intelligence, the DHS has established the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3), which, according to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas, “will help build local prevention frameworks to provide communities with the tools they need to combat terrorism and targeted violence.”

These prevention frameworks facilitate the provision of resources, training, and financial and technical assistance to SLTT law enforcement while also supporting their mental health, social services, and other community partners.

Five Main Components Support Prevention Efforts

To accomplish this, CP3 has established five core lines of effort, all of which work closely with law enforcement.

  1. Field Operations staff are deployed across the country and include 14 Regional Prevention Coordinators (RPC) who serve as contacts for coordination and sharing of resources. They will also help law enforcement build local prevention and intervention networks. These RPCs are supported by four other units headquartered at DHS.
  2. The Strategic Engagement Section engages with partners, stakeholders, and communities and conducts digital forums on targeted violence and terrorism prevention for members of the public, technology sector partners, and law enforcement.
  3. The Policy and Research Section provides timely, accurate, and accessible information to guide the establishment and operation of local prevention frameworks. It also publishes information on topics such as threat assessment and management teams, media literacy, and critical thinking in online spaces, as well as guidance for mitigating the effects of social isolation in young people.
  4. The Grants and Innovation Section funds grantees in three areas: (1) establishing local prevention networks, (2) piloting innovative prevention programs, and (3) replicating successful prevention initiatives. CP3 also funds partnerships to support and enhance efforts by law enforcement, faith leaders, local government officials, and communities to prevent targeted violence and terrorism.
  5. The Education and Information Sharing Section coordinates and implements CP3’s training efforts to address the prevention knowledge requirements of SLTT and nongovernmental stakeholders. It also provides the virtual Community Awareness Briefing (CAB) to CP3’s stakeholder groups.
Training Is Grounded in a Public Health Approach

To help officers recognize the risk indicators for violent extremism and provide strategies for preventing them, CP3 has also developed a training component called the Law Enforcement Awareness Briefing (LAB), which is available upon request.

Additional training focused on behavioral indicators will also be available through the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC).

CP3 training is grounded in a public health approach to violence prevention, using behavioral threat assessment and management tools supported by empirical evidence and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as other experts.

Though it underscores the importance of recognizing changes in baseline behavior, the training emphasizes that there is no one profile indicative of a violent extremist, terrorist, or individual of concern. It also stresses the requirement that civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy concerns are always respected and protected.

An Inclusive “Whole of Society” Effort

Moreover, as a public safety agency, DHS has a “whole-of-society" philosophy, which guides all CP3 strategies.

At the heart of all the program’s efforts is the recognition of the important role played by individuals as well as community groups; social service organizations; and mental health, religious, and other institutions in detecting and preventing violence.

Said Secretary Mayorkas, “Individuals who may be radicalizing, or have radicalized, to violence typically exhibit behaviors that are recognizable to many but are best understood by those closest to them, such as friends, family, and classmates.”

For this reason, CP3 provides connections to local referral networks and training for working with multidisciplinary threat assessment and management teams, as well as access to programs that address risk factors for violent extremism.

All of these and other CP3 efforts are enabled and enhanced by the support of SLTT law enforcement.

The New Office of Intelligence and Analysis

Another new development in DHS’s efforts to prevent terrorism is the opening of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A).

A unique member of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), I&A’s mission is based on collaboration with SLTT law enforcement. It was created to deliver intelligence to these agencies and their private sector partners while also gathering intelligence from them to share with the IC.

To facilitate this exchange of intelligence, I&A provides a single, reliable, and dependable source for communications and engagement, conducting outreach, ensuring transparency, and addressing issues, concerns, and questions.

This ensures that I&A’s law enforcement partners can expeditiously access the capabilities, resources, and expertise necessary to share information and intelligence and serve as full participants in the homeland security intelligence enterprise.

This collaboration will enhance not only law enforcement’s ability to detect, prevent, and respond to terrorism but also the DHS’s efforts to produce the sound, timely intelligence critical to combating threats posed by domestic terrorism and targeted violence.

The creation of CP3 and the I&A Domestic Terrorism Branch are the latest actions DHS is taking to comprehensively combat domestic violent extremism. As Secretary Mayorkas said, “The federal government cannot do this alone—we must work together.”

A New Law Enforcement Intelligence Guide

Another new source of support and information is the recently published Law Enforcement Intelligence: A Guide for State, Local, and Tribal Law Enforcement Agencies, Third Edition.

This third edition is a comprehensive, detailed guide to the latest findings and current promising practices for the analysis, sharing, and application of intelligence by SLTT law enforcement.

Among the topics discussed are homeland security, the intelligence process, technology, fusion centers, public/private partnerships, civil rights, and privacy protection.

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