Call it homegrown homeland security – a unique way to deter criminal activity, respond to national disasters like a flu pandemic and maintain morale in the wake of a domestic terror attack.
Developed in small-town America, this unique kind of community policing system has now caught the eye of high-level Washington, D.C., officials. No surprise, really. Most experts agree that a WMD attack is coming. They also agree that unless the American people can withstand such an attack psychologically and maintain their will to fight, the “war on terror” cannot be won.
“Sometimes it takes regular Americans to come up with a solution that the experts missed,” said Just, who acknowledged that the meetings in the nation’s capital were a rare opportunity. Until now, C-FAC has worked quietly on a local level in Southern Oregon, working alongside law enforcement to protect the homes, schools, churches and businesses of Grants Pass, a river city of 25,000.
It was a big moment, says Just, to be able to show federal decision-makers how the C-FAC system worked, and how, if championed by government – and the churches – it could benefit countless communities across the country. With the blessings of his local congressman, Rep. Greg Walden, Just found that doors opened in D.C., giving him that rare opportunity to pitch a new national vision for locally based and organized civil defense. Well, new to Washington, at least.
“We’ve been patrolling our community in cooperation with local law enforcement for over 10 years,” noted Just, whose longtime support from law enforcement is impressive. Even as far back as 1995, then-Sheriff Dan Calvert remarked that C-FAC was “an example to this state and nation.” And now the nation seems to be noticing.
“I was very impressed with the people we met and their willingness to hear us out,” said Just of the group’s meetings with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives. “After all, the problems faced by big cities are quite a bit more complex than a town our size. Still, we know we have a very important answer to a very hard question.”
That question, says Just, a WorldNetDaily columnist and veteran talk-show host, is one that counterterrorism experts have long considered: “How will the public react to a WMD attack – whether radiological, chemical, biological or nuclear? Will the morale go down? Will the polls drop? Will the politicians panic? Will our military be undermined? Will the war on terror be lost?”
Part of the answer lies in how each locality would react to a catastrophic attack and whether or not the people have the necessary local systems in place to prevent panic or despair.
“There’s only so much government can do,” Just told WND. “How we react to danger is up to us.”
According to Lt. Col. Tony Kern, a C-FAC national advisory board member, who also attended the meetings, government is well aware of the seriousness of the problem. “A whole lot of smart and dedicated state, local and federal officials have worked hard to build the Citizens Corps Council system,” said Kern, a retired B-1 bomber pilot and former military history professor at the Air Force Academy.
“There’s nothing worse than sitting around doing nothing in an emergency,” said Kern. “If you want to beat the fear factor, the best way is to get busy doing something useful.”
Kern, president of Convergent Knowledge Solutions, which consults with the Marines, Coast Guard and others, was interviewed by CBS’ “48 Hours” shortly after 9-11 as a result of his “Open Letter to the American People.” In his letter, Kern warned Americans that the new war they found themselves in was a battle of wills more than anything else.
“I knew right then I wanted to interview him myself,” Just said. “We became instant friends, partly because we both saw the same reality: America was in grave danger.
“We’re honored to have a man of Tony’s caliber working with us to help develop a new paradigm – a nationwide civil-defense system using the churches as a starting point.”
Just says the secret of C-FAC is simple: “We use the system of the family – fathers, mothers and soon the youth – working together on different missions to build what Congressman Walden called ‘community connectedness’ in his recent letter about us to [DHS Secretary Michael] Chertoff.”
The strategy for all three branches of the program includes “lots of people all doing a little of the work,” and staying connected to community leaders “so we can once again become ‘good neighbors,'” Just said.
“In times of great stress, this could be a crucial benefit to the states and localities that have a system like this in place.”
While the C-FAC fathers historically have focused on eyes-and-ears community policing and special assistance to law enforcement, a mothers’ component – Concerned Mothers Alliance for Children – writes letters “to help maintain a civil society for their children,” Just says. “Concerned Youth” is still in the planning stages, but is expected to launch soon and join the parents in helping build that “community connectedness.”
Just noted C-FAC is an “important partner” to President Bush’s national vision for the government’s Citizen Corps Council program, but it has the benefit of being an independent grass-roots group, “which Americans like,” he commented.
“We reach out to people, whether married or single, calling on them to ‘mother or father’ their community. People respond to that calling – it’s a part of our DNA.”
As a local board member of Bush’s Citizen Corps Council, Just praises the program, saying C-FAC is “one of the many tools” that serves the CCC vision, along with Neighborhood Watch, Volunteers in Police Service, Medical Reserve Corps and others.
The basis of C-FAC is community patrols by teams of “fathers” who drive their own cars – with two or three men per car – serving as eyes-and-ears-only assistance to local law enforcement. Since cell phones have become commonplace, C-FAC members can easily contact police when needed. The organization has also gone out on special patrols and assisted law enforcement with special situations, such as in the case of a “serial arsonist” incident.
While each man involved commits to just a few patrols per year, members also keep an eye out for trouble even when off-duty and call in such incidents to local authorities.
Just says getting the churches involved is crucial to developing this kind of nationwide civil-defense system. “The churches are the obvious place to start, since they’re in every American community, large or small.”
After an initial C-FAC group is formed, churchgoing men of various denominations can then ask others whom they know well to join the effort.
“All we ask is that the recruits be level-headed men who respect authority. We don’t want hotheads or ‘wannabe’ cops,” Just told WND. “And definitely no guys with hidden or vigilante agendas – just people who want to do the right thing by protecting their community.”
An experienced activist, Just believes that local churches are the key for another important reason: Getting churches involved will assure legitimacy of the effort.
“Americans are rightly suspicious of ‘security groups’ that operate independent of duly elected or appointed officials,” Just said. “Those of us who know world history don’t want an independent ‘army’ running around our country. So using local churches to recruit chapter leadership helps ensure that nothing weird will happen on a national level.”
A few months after 9-11, Just wrote a column describing some of the details and history of C-FAC. Now, after Katrina, he and others are starting to knock on doors on a national level – including media – and he’s got the endorsement of law-enforcement personnel in hand to back up his enthusiasm for the system.
“Our partnership with C-FAC represents the perfect example of community policing,” wrote Joe Henner, director of the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety, in a letter to Just. “I can’t imagine why any community would not want to embrace a program like C-FAC, and I will gladly be the first to stand before any local, state or national organization or panel and say that.”
Added Police Chief Eric Mellgren of Medford, Ore.: “I believe that the C-FAC approach is one of the best models I have seen for connecting people who care and want to help … their local governments.”
“Anyone who wants to know where fathers are in society these days can just look at Josephine County, Oregon,” said Sheriff Dave Daniel. “Concerned Fathers Against Crime has organized fathers to work with law enforcement in protecting the community. It’s amazing. There’s nothing going on in national community policing that’s quite like C-FAC. We are proud of them and proud to work with them.”
Paul True, a C-FAC national board member and owner-CEO of NRG Research Inc., a national company based in southern Oregon, accompanied Just as he met with Homeland Security officials. True is convinced that the model of “responsible people giving small amounts of time and becoming involved in the community” is immeasurably effective.
“There’s something about being a private organization that’s community-based where people might look at it more favorably than if it were just another government program,” True told WND.
True stressed that an organization like C-FAC can play an invaluable role in time of emergency – natural disaster or terror attack – where local leaders can interface with FEMA and other government agencies in a cohesive way.
“An agency can show up and immediately have a sense of local issues and needs in an emergency,” True said.
“The C-FAC system provides a mechanism where during good times, solid guys are enjoying camaraderie and making a difference in their community … and when times go bad, those structures serve the community very, very well.”
“But remember,” says Just. “The even greater impact of this system comes when the fathers, mothers and youth are all involved, representing the highest calling of human nature – to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
Something that just might turn out to be good for national security, too.