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Homeland Security meeting offers lesson on West Virginia Fusion Center

By Staff | Jan 30, 2019

Sgt. Robert Sell, of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, spoke of his role as a liaison to the state's Fusion Center during the Homeland Security and Emergency Management quarterly meeting Friday. Toni Milbourne

CHARLES TOWN — The quarterly partnership luncheon hosted by the Jefferson County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management recently gave an update of the department’s activities.

Director Steve Allen shared information about trainings, events and other points of interest during a mid-day meeting on Friday, at the Epic Buffet at Hollywood Casino and Charles Town Races.

After Allen spoke about the department, he turned the microphone over to Sheriff Pete Dougherty to introduce the speaker for the day’s program.

Doughtery took the opportunity to share information on Sgt. Robert Sell, a 15-year member of his department, who wears many hats.

“Sergeant. Sell serves as a patrol sergeant as well as an accident reconstructionist, a member of the Special Response Team, also known as the SWAT team, a member of the DEA Clandestine Laboratory Safety/Inspection team and a liaison to the West Virginia Sheriff’s Association Youth Leadership Academy Camp,” Dougherty listed. “Sell also serves as the department’s representative as a Fusion Liaison Officer to the West Virginia Fusion Center.”

The Fusion Center, which was the topic of Sell’s talk at the Friday luncheon, is located in Charleston and is a partnership between public and private entities encompassing local, state and federal law enforcement, public safety agencies, and the private sector. The Center’s mission is to anticipate, identify, prevent, monitor criminal activity and all other hazards, then responsibly distribute their findings while protecting the rights of the citizens of the state and the agencies involved.

“The bottom line,” Sell said during his talk, “is that the Fusion Center reaches out to many different levels within the community to gather information, process, analyze, predict and ultimately issue warnings or alerts as appropriate.”

Sell explained that the local FLO’s provide information at state and national levels, as well as locally when necessary.

“You may be surprised at the range of topics that are researched at the Fusion Center,” Sell told attendees. “They include terrorism, both international and domestic, gangs, security threat groups, auto theft, high technology crime, threats to public order, special events and civil emergencies, threats to government, law enforcement and critical infrastructure, identity theft and fraud, major serial arson, major alcohol, tobacco and explosives incidents, HAZMAT incidents and any international incidents with potential local impact.”

According to Sell, the driving force behind the creation of Fusion Centers was the Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. soil.

“The 9/11 Commission report outlined many deficiencies in the intelligence community,” Sell said, “as well as lack of communication and information sharing both within and across government organizations, technology problems, lack of standards and policies and the need for a unified process for reporting, tracking an accessing Suspicious Activity Reports, to name a few.”.

SARs can now be submitted by anyone.

“There is even an app for submitting,” Sell said.

He went on to say that while anyone can submit a report of suspicious behavior, there are guidelines to follow with regards to privacy and civil rights during an investigation.

“It is important to stress that a behavior-focused approach to identifying suspicious activities requires factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, etc., should these factors not be documented as reasons for creating suspicion,” Sell said.

According to Sell, his role as a Fusion Liaison Officer is multi-faceted.

“I maintain current training in situational recognition, information analysis and dissemination and threat vulnerabilities,” Sell said. “I also receive information from the Fusion Center and distribute to specific agency contacts, receive leads which originate from within the agency or the community regarding suspicious activity and know who needs to know the intelligence and information I acquire.”

Sell shared how individuals can recognize potential threats including monitoring individuals who take photos of points of entry, security personnel and the like. He said that one should also be mindful of individuals who have unusual quantities of cell phones, pagers, fuel, timers or weapons.

There are many other warning signs individuals can recognize. Additional information can be found at www.fusionwv.gov.