'Cops Brace for Millennium's End' (long)

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Monday December 27 01:39 PM EST

Cops Brace for Millennium's End

NEW YORK (APBnews.com) -- Police departments across the country have canceled vacations and time off, beefed up patrol forces and set up emergency command centers as they prepare for a Millennial New Year's Eve.

Commanders say they have prepared for possible terrorist attacks and potential breakdowns if computers go haywire when the new century begins, in addition to the normal huge crowds in places like New York's Times Square.

In Los Angeles, police say they are gearing for "maximum mobilization" just before the clock strikes midnight and plan to have "mobile field forces" ready to head to any hot spots in the city.

In the District of Columbia, edgy police will be manning nearly 150 intersections and federal lawmen will be doing electronic sweeps of national monuments to make sure bombs haven't been planted.

And, in small Sioux County, Iowa, apocalyptic Sheriff Jim Schwiesow has called on the gun-toting folks in his community to keep their weapons ready just in case the dreaded Y2K computer glitch triggers chaos and things get out of hand.

"We are not anticipating anything, but we are preparing for anything," said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, whose Framingham headquarters is a Cold War relic -- a bunker 40 feet below ground and built on springs.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that there are potential terrorist targets here," D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey told reporters recently. "We would be less than responsible if we didn't take some precautions."

Cops not taking any chances

Will the coming of the Y2K bug be a 900-pound gorilla that will overwhelm the earth, as some doomsayers believe, by triggering widespread computer failures, the inadvertent firing of nuclear missiles, power blackouts and dead phones and terrorists using the moment to drive home a political point?

Or, will midnight 2000 be a big, fat dud?

"Nobody knows," said Philip Hoag, the author of the book No Such Thing as Doomsday. "Nobody is a crystal ball reader. The big question is going to be whether one or three percent of the imbedded chips fail. If one percent fails, it's a bump in the road. If three percent fail, it's a serious problem."

A survey of major and small-town police departments across the United States by APBnews.com reveals that while police are not expecting millennium madness and computers running amok, they are gearing up for them just in case.

Emergency centers activated

In addition, most state and local governments will be opening special emergency management centers, staffed by police and agency officials, in order to respond to any emergency.

For example, Massachusetts' Judge said the state Emergency Management Center will be activated on a 24-hour basis at 8 a.m. Dec. 31 with representatives from 60 to 70 state agencies on hand receiving field reports from 100 different Massachusetts towns and cities.

"We are basically activating the emergency center as we would a weather event or a major plane crash," Judge said.

The following is a rundown of other major agencies' plans:

Michigan plans standby squads

Michigan State Police plan to have command personnel on hand at the state's Emergency Operations Center and will have additional patrols out, depending on what happens. In addition, state police say they have created "paper squads" of off-duty troopers who have been placed on standby and will be available if emergencies occur. Police said they would be keeping a close eye on any problems that occur when the new year arrives, first in Europe and Japan.

Capt. Steve Herner, the commander of the office for special operations for the Michigan State Police, said that the department has added five phone lines for its operations center in order to more quickly handle calls from residents.

Detroit prepares emergency shelters

Detroit police Sgt. Rosalyn Beard said city police will be manning their posts around the clock. She would not provide further details. However, Mayor Dennis Archer said the city is designating "warming centers" and emergency food locations throughout the city, increasing the number of police officers on duty and having generators ready to power pumping stations, police and fire stations in the event of power outages.

In Baltimore, police spokesman Rob Wienhold said that the department has canceled leaves and off days for officers, and rearranged shifts so they overlap in anticipation of any problems

With a huge New Year's celebration planned at Harbor Place, police say they have stabled a number of command posts throughout the city.

Boise, Idaho, police will be working extended shifts and will have personnel in the state's Emergency Operations Center from Dec. 24 through Jan. 4. The center has a variety of electronic and satellite equipment to monitor what's happening around the world, authorities said.

Heavy security in Seattle

In Seattle, police are expected to tighten security in the wake of the World Trade Organization protests and the arrest of a suspected terrorist who had reserved a room near the Seattle Center, where a huge New Year's Eve bash is scheduled.

Following the arrest of Ahmed Ressam in Port Angeles on Dec. 14, city officials said they met with federal agents from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Ressam faces charges in connection with attempting to bring nitroglycerin, timing devices and other explosives across the Canadian border.

Seattle police say they plan to have 900 officers on the streets on New Year's Eve.

Meanwhile, the King County Sheriff's Office said it will have 250 more officers on duty instead of the normal 50 to 60 officers

L.A. worried about gunfire

The Los Angeles Police Department plans what it termed a "maximum deployment" of officers in the city. Officer Charles Rodriguez, a department spokesman, said mobile field forces have been specially mobilized to respond to any trouble spots in the city.

He said that the city's emergency management center would be activated at City Hall. Rodriguez said the city does not expect police computers, city traffic signals, its 911 system or radios to fail.

Rodriguez said that police are especially concerned about people firing guns in the air to celebrate the new year. Special gunfire suppression teams will be traveling around the city arresting persons discharging weapons.

Nashville Police Capt. Steven Anderson said the department has canceled any type of leave in anticipation of the new year and that all police officers are on standby. All command staff will be on duty and meeting throughout the night. Police say they have already installed emergency generators at its gas pumps in case the power fails.

National Guard prepared

The U.S. National Guard reports that units in 36 states have been adding personnel to their operation centers across the country just in case they are needed. Of the 50 states and two territories that have National Guard units, only Arizona has chosen not to identify units to deploy in an emergency, Guard officials said.

Chicago police say they will have "more than the usual" number of officers on duty. Police say that a contingency plan in place will allow them to call in more officers if needed.

The city's Office of Emergency Management will be operational with key decision makers from the police and fire departments, along with representatives of other city agencies, on hand. The city says it is preparing as it would for "a big snowstorm."

New York cancels time off

In New York, city officials say there will be more than enough police officers available.

Personnel from specialized units will police millennium celebrations. As a result, most precinct personnel will remain in their commands to address local emergencies.

Officers assigned to millennium celebrations can be rapidly redeployed to any citywide emergency, the city says. All days off have been canceled and 12-hour tours will be assigned when necessary to make more officers available.

To control traffic with 2 million people expected to jam into Times Square, the city's Traffic Division has a backup generator that will operate signals in the city in the event of a failure.

However, the city says that failure in the electric utility system may cause outages. In addition, more than 3,000 signals are computer-controlled using telephone lease lines. Any failure to the Bell Atlantic system may cause these signals to fail.

To counter any outages, the city has outfitted a multimillion-dollar bunker in a downtown office building with its own power supply where Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and top emergency officials are expected to spend the night.

Miami concerned about crowds

Miami police say that the biggest problem they face is crowd control due to major events taking place in the city. To that end, every patrol vehicle on the streets will have special riot gear so that, in the event of an emergency, officers can don shields and helmets. The department said it canceled all vacations for the last two weeks of 1999 in anticipation of the extra manpower needed. In addition, police said few cops would be sitting behind desks. Most will be in the streets directing traffic and on patrol.

Besides running a command center at police headquarters, police have also established a "backup headquarters" in case the power goes out.

Rural county deputizes gun owners

In rural Sioux County, Iowa, Sheriff Schwiesow caused a stir in June when he mailed letters to licensed handgun carriers asking them to volunteer as deputies in case of millennium problems.

Schwiesow, through his secretary, said that he wasn't talking to the media because of a bad cold. However, his office did confirm that he had sent the letter and that some people had responded to his call to arms, but did not know how many.

In his "Message From The Sheriff" section on the department's official Web site, Schwiesow said that it is his belief that the only solution to the world's problems is God.

"The Bible reveals God's method of dealing with disobedient and social depraved nations and societies," Schwiesow wrote.

In a December 1998 letter to county residents, Schwiesow issued a public warning about the dangers of Y2K, saying that God calls on a civil magistrate like himself to warn others of potential dangers. In the letter, Schwiesow referred to Proverbs and Psalms and urged residents to consider stockpiling water and food and water and to consider alternative heating methods in case something happened.

St. Paul, Minn., police say that all vacations and extended leaves have been canceled and that officers will go on 12-hour shifts beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 31. In addition, the city has established an emergency communications network composed of 72 sites located throughout the city.

The FBI has barred vacations for agents from Dec. 27 to Jan. 7 and has sent out a report to police chiefs across the United States warning of the "very real" millennium threats that may be carried out on New Year's Eve or early in 2000.

Washington prepares for power failures

Washington, D.C., police say they have stopped all leaves from Dec. 26 through Jan. 15 and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to jam into the city to celebrate 2000.

Police and city officials said that 145 street intersections will be manned by law enforcement officers. Washington has been divided into patrol regions so that police are within walking distance of any residence or building. Federal agents plan to do electronic security sweeps of major monuments and federal buildings. An estimated 500,000 people are expected to attend events at the National Mall.

Meanwhile, District of Columbia officials are preparing for a worst-case scenario if the power fails due to Y2K computer glitches. The city says it has purchased thousands of blankets, cots, ready-to-eat meals and bottled water.

In addition, the federal government has opened a Y2K crisis center to monitor technology failures around the world.

The Houston Police Department will have all 5,400 of its officers on duty New Year's Eve as part of its Y2K readiness program, department spokesman John Leggio said.

Louisiana State Police say they will have a slightly larger than normal complement of personnel out during the New Year's season, paying particular attention to foreign ships arriving with hazardous materials. In Baton Rouge, the state police will be operating an emergency operations center where they will monitor the world's transition into the new millennium, one time zone at a time.

By Robert Anthony Phillips, an APBnews.com staff writer (Robert.Phillips@apbnews.com). The Associated Press contributed to this report.

-- (in@the.news), December 28, 1999


900-pound gorilla? I just thought the planes were gonna fall outta the sky. Now we've got Grape-Ape to worry about...time to run to K- mart for the $0.39 pound bananas.

-- Hokie (nn@va.com), December 28, 1999.

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