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JSO Says 9/11 Terror Attacks Changed the Way the Department Does its Job

4:32 PM, Sep 9, 2011   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- September 11, 2001, started out as a regular day in Jacksonville for three men at the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Around 8:30 that morning, Chief Mike Williams, Director John Hartley and Undersheriff Dwain Senterfitt were settling into their jobs.

MORE: Sept. 11 section

Sixteen minutes later, their jobs changed forever. "We all watched it on the news," said Hartley.

Each one recalls the moment they knew this was an attack on America. "We all watched the second plane hit. That's when we realized this was not an accident," said William.

Senterfitt remembers thinking who else needs to prepare. "There were some concerns about what else is gonna happen...is there another shoot."

The three said at that moment they went into planning mode.  They said there wasn't panic, but what happened on that day has changed the way JSO operates today.

"It used to be that everything was siloed, then you had to break down those walls. It was a constant battle to break it down. That's one thing that's done now. We share that info, we readily share it with everybody," said Hartley.

JSO now uses what is called the fusion center. Fifty-nine agencies pool information together from the North Florida region to put pieces of the puzzle together to prevent an attack. 

JSO has officers devoted to following up terror leads. They admit JSO has checked out numerous tips about possible terrorist ties in Jacksonville.

Several of the 9/11 hijackers spent time in the River City months before the attacks. JSO said it didn't know about that until years later, but they are more aware now of who is here.

"We've got bad people right here in Jacksonville that we think are involved in some way or another, whether it's funneling money. Occasionally we hear of somebody, some information that may be involved in some of those kinds of activities," said Senterfitt.

JSO said tips from the public, reporting suspicious activity, are what they rely on.  In fact, the recent scare at city hall, where a suspicious package turned out to be a box of light bulbs, JSO says was a good thing.

It shows people are paying attention, and it was also good training for officers. JSO said it's followed thousands of leads over the last 10 years.

 

 

 

"We are better responders, we are better at preventing. We are better at gathering intelligence. We are better at gathering information," said Hartley.

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