A Shift in Priorities

Public safety agencies from the FBI to the smallest volunteer fire departments have been dramaticall

Officer Chris Solberg of the California Highway Patrol's San Bernardino office used to spend a good deal of time responding to traffic accidents and patrolling state highways and county pockets for speeding motorists - until the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon.

Now, he spends his days guarding the state government building at E and Fourth streets and the Devil Canyon Power Plant, both in San Bernardino.

Public safety agencies from the FBI to the smallest volunteer fire departments have been dramatically changed by 9/11 and the steps taken at all levels to try to keep it from happening again. And individual police, firefighters and health workers see their jobs in a new light.

"The major concern would be a bombing," Solberg said. "The ability to make (bombs) is so easy. All you have to do is go to the Internet. Just type in `How to make a bomb.' "

Solberg is one of those who takes a new approach to the job. He looks at the bigger picture of what could happen to the city's water supply, government buildings or other institutions should terrorists strike.

And while a terrorist strike is less common in a city like San Bernardino as opposed to a more densely populated metropolitan area like Los Angeles, Solberg's duties illustrate how 9/11 shaped the way law enforcement does business and how police officers view the nature of their work.

"You look at freeways differently, you look at buildings differently the layout of the city. I've learned the side streets better in the last couple of years," Solberg said. "We are doing more proactive security since 9/11, whereas before we would respond."

The Devil Canyon Power Plant supplies water to residents throughout the Inland Empire and fills Perris Lake, Solberg said. Planes and helicopters fly above regularly to make sure there are no pedestrians or suspicious vehicles on the sprawling property in the hills behind Cal State San Bernardino.

"There's not supposed to be anybody over there. There should not be one pedestrian in that area. If something is not marked, then immediately that's called in and we respond out there," Solberg said.

Solberg is one example of counterterrorism at work at the local level.

But in dollars and cents, the impact of 9/11 has affected law enforcement in different ways at all levels.

Over the last five years, the FBI's budget nearly doubled from $3.2 billion in 2001 to $5.7 billion in 2006. Nearly 6,700 new positions have been created to combat terrorism, according to U.S. Department of Justice data. The sweeping changes include an increased number of special agents assigned to counterterrorism, a doubling of intelligence analysts to 485 and the tripling of linguists to 700.

At the local level, San Bernardino County has been granted $21.1 million in federal homeland security grants since 9/11, and $15.3 million in grants related to health services.

That's $36.4 million to buy equipment, protective gear, vehicles and software to improve the region's ability to deal with an attack or disaster.

"We can respond better. We can respond faster," county Health Officer Eric Frykman said.

For example, the county is getting a database that will take nearly real-time information from ambulances and make it available to officials to allow them to spot problems sooner.

If there's a sudden rash of calls with victims suffering from the same symptoms, that could indicate a bioterror attack or even a natural epidemic such as the much-feared avian flu.

It's also brought agencies closer in planning and coordination.

Service groups, churches, private medical clinics and others need to be brought aboard because every one could be affected, Frykman said.

A handful of major metropolitan areas in the state like Los Angeles and the Bay Area can apply directly to the federal government for money.

Otherwise, the money is funneled through the Governor's Office of Homeland Security.

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