The national security policy of the United States on countering violent extremism (CVE) recognizes that “our best defenses against this threat are well informed and equipped families, local communities, and institutions.”1 To further strengthen these defenses, the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) partnered with the University of Maryland’s (UMD) National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Reponses to Terrorism (START) to coordinate the National Summit on Empowering Communities to Prevent Violent Extremism.
The three partners collaborated to plan and coordinate the national summit, which took place at FLETC’s headquarters in Glynco, Georgia, August 13–14, 2014. The summit’s overall goal was to advance multidisciplinary efforts to implement effective community-based CVE intervention models and to create a community of interest that will continually improve upon those efforts. The summit convened more than 50 participants from multiple disciplines engaged in CVE efforts from federal, state and local, international, and nongovernmental entities. Over the course of the two-day summit, these participants described the CVE work they are conducting in their localities with a focus on lessons learned, best practices, and challenges. Summit participants discussed and debated these matters.
Addressing the problem of violent extremism in the precriminal space through engagement, prevention, and intervention programs is a departure from usual practices for traditional law enforcement and a responsibility that the public has recently articulated for communities and other government organizations. In order for government, law enforcement, and communities to succeed in countering violent extremism, each must undergo paradigm shifts to new frameworks that emphasize using collaborative and multidisciplinary strategies to build communitybased multilevel prevention and intervention programs. The delegations that presented at the summit have already begun to experience these paradigm shifts.
The first paradigm shift is the recognition by law enforcement organizations that CVE approaches offer pragmatic and proactive opportunities for dealing with the issue of violent extremism as they build trust and open lines of communication with the communities that police departments protect and serve, enlisting the help of communities to identify and assist at risk individuals and discredit violent ideologies in ways that the law enforcement community is not well-positioned to do on its own.
The second paradigm shift is the recognition that while the law enforcement community has an important role to play, that role should ultimately be in support of communities and other governmental organizations that are better positioned to operate in the precriminal space.
A third paradigm shift is the recognition that CVE requires a broad array of capabilities and participants dedicated to building resilience at many levels of society simultaneously. By building more partnerships involving individuals, families, communities, institutions, and various government agencies, communities ultimately become more resilient to all hazards, including but not limited to violent extremism.
Weine, Stevan and William Braniff. “Report on the National Summit on Empowering Communities to Prevent Violent Extremism,” Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, 2015. https://ric-zai-inc.com/Publications/cops-p326-pub.pdf