It’s nearly 6 p.m. in Israel and Salem Police Chief Paul Tucker has 12 minutes to spare until he gets on a bus and heads to a Shabbat dinner to celebrate the Jewish day of rest, and the seventh day of the week.
Tucker will be celebrating with Israeli policemen, as well as 15 other high-ranking law enforcement officials from the Northeastern US, all of whom have been participating in an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) counter-terrorism training program in Israel for the last six days. A senior officer from the Italian National Police’s counter terrorism unit is also participating in the mission.
The ADL is a national organization that fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry in the U.S. and abroad through information, education, legislation and advocacy.
The Salem police chief, along with other officials from New York, New Jersey Pennsylvania and various cities and towns in Massachusetts, have been meeting with commanders from the Israel National Police, security experts and intelligence analysts to learn how the nation prevents and responds to terror attacks. They’re there to learn the expertise of ensuring safety and ensuring their citizens can live a safe and normal life.
“It’s been an amazing trip,” Tucker said. “The quality of what we’ve seen in terms of how the Israeli officials keep the country safe and they do a phenomenal job. And the other part is the spirit of the people, the resiliency.”
“I’m awestruck by the dedication of the 19 and 20-year-olds who are risking their lives on the border,” he added.
Tucker has met with the head of airport security in Tel Aviv to learn the ins and outs of its camera system. He has learned about human intelligence and how to recognize certain types of behavior that may prompt inquiry in a public area, as well as learning what questions to ask and determining if a person needs to be further scrutinized.
“We want to provide them access to expertise, techniques and strategies and some of that comes from seeing things in person and also hearing from people and interacting with people who have firsthand knowledge,” said Robert Trestan, the ADL eastern states civil rights counsel and leader of the mission. “The initial idea, which started several years ago, is to ensure that American law enforcement have the best expertise that’s available.”
The police chief, who has been in the field for 30 years, also came to a realization while overseas. Regardless of the miles that separate police officers from different countries, commonalities still exist. They share the same day-to-day goal and that is to keep their communities safe. “The folks here are the experts, but police officers are police officers,” he said.
Tucker recalled a story told by the head of security of a popular mall. When his three children were young, they would travel to school by bus everyday. This agonized him and his wife because of the all-too-frequent suicide bombings.
“They made a decision to live life and take the bus, but made the decision that all three children had to take separate buses,” Tucker said. “If something happened he didn’t want to lose all his children. But what I was awestruck about his decision to be resilient and live life.”
When Tucker returns to Salem he intends on assembling all of his notes that he’s been keeping in a journal into a Power Point presentation to share with his fellow detectives and chiefs. The presentation will include tips on how to improve current regulations as well as new techniques to handle dangerous situations, spotlighting some of the threats that his force has faced in the past.
With the hundreds of thousands of tourists that Salem sees per year, Tucker will look at how the police department looks at potential risks.
“I have a very strong appreciation for the work that’s being done in Israel and I think it will help my approach on the job,” Tucker said. “This is the highlight of my career. We’re going to bring a great message back to the U.S.”
The Salem police chief returns to the U.S. on Monday February 4. The ADL will continue its anti-terrorism work with law enforcement officials in the Northeast as part of its broader mission of fighting hate, bigotry and extremism.
Terri Ogan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.