BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) - Some of Minnesota's top cops are forging a new partnership with the security executives of the state's largest companies in hopes that, by networking, they can make the community safer.
The Twin Cities Security Partnership is an initiative led by the Minneapolis FBI office. It's meant to provide a forum where leaders in both sectors can get to know each other and explore ways to share information and resources. And in the event of a crisis, the FBI would contact members and direct them to a secure Web site where they would get more information on how they might help.
"If it works, if it's beneficial, we'd like to roll it out to all our FBI offices in the country," said Paul McCabe, the FBI agent who's coordinating the effort.
At the group's meeting Wednesday, about 100 high-ranking officials from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies got together with top security executives from locally based Fortune 500 corporations and other companies considered "critical infrastructure," such as the Mall of America.
"I know from my experience in the bureau that it's this kind of partnership that makes things work," said Michael Tabman, the new special agent in charge of the Minneapolis FBI office, who used the meeting as an opportunity to meet local police chiefs and corporate executives.
"This is exemplary, and we hope it's a model. And it is certainly the future of law enforcement," Tabman told the group. "... Information sharing is absolutely one of our highest priorities."
Gov. Tim Pawlenty told the gathering that law enforcement has made remarkable strides since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but needs to do more to take advantage of the "critical asset" of the corporate sector's security capabilities.
The private sector's data and expertise, if properly coordinated with law enforcement, "can bring incredible value-added opportunities to our overall homeland security effort," Pawlenty said.
David Schrimp, director of corporate security for 3M Co., said it will be useful for both sides to start sharing information now and getting to know each other on a first-name basis, "so if there is a critical need we won't have to start from scratch."
Hennepin County Sheriff Patrick McGowan said about 80 percent of the infrastructure in the United States is privately owned so it makes sense for both sides to expand their circles of contacts.
"You can work together, you can enhance strengths, you can minimize weaknesses, you can share information, so I only see it as a win-win for everybody," McGowan said.
U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger said sharing security information between public and private sectors doesn't necessarily result in arrests and prosecutions, but it can help prevent money from going overseas to terrorists and thus help avert attacks.
Brad Brekke, vice president of assets protection for Target Corp., said terrorism is an issue for the group, but he expects they'll be focusing on "more mundane matters" where the executives can share their expertise with law enforcement agencies, citing budgeting procedures as an example.
R. Scott McCoy, director of security for Xcel Energy, said he came to learn about what the group has planned for fostering information sharing. He said he wasn't sure how much Xcel might benefit.
"Hopefully it's just not meetings where we hear speakers preach, and it's more about where we sit down and talk as a group," he said.
But McCoy called the participating executives and public officials "the eyes and ears of the Twin Cities" and said it could be useful to share raw intelligence.
"Something that's meaningless to me, in a minor incident that has zero to do with my company, could have extreme relevance to an analyst who's got two or three other pieces of the puzzle," he said.