Barriers to Interagency Coordination

The law enforcement response to terrorist events improves with interagency and international coordination. An NIJ-funded report examined the barriers to effective coordination that agencies often face in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland. Factors that can impede the ability of first responders to work together include a lack of—

  • Mechanisms for sharing confidential data.
  • Guidelines regarding interagency coordination.
  • A clear chain of command among Federal, State, and local responders.
  • Similar agency structures.
  • A common operating language—that is, the same definition for common terms and the same slang. [1]

The report made several suggestions for successful interagency coordination—

  • Use of a liaison model, whereby law enforcement and public health personnel are assigned to other agencies to facilitate communication and consultation.
  • Release a joint message to the news media to forestall panic and exaggerated public perceptions.
  • Develop relationships between first responders to facilitate routine cooperation prior to disaster response.
  • Train representatives from each agency jointly, so that they trust one another and appreciate each other's roles in cooperation.


[1] For example, terms such as evidence, survey, index, investigation, case, and surveillance may have different meanings for law enforcement and public health workers.

Date Created: January 11, 2008