Homeland Security's Napolitano tours center at San Pedro dealing with terrorism at seaports

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U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano testifies during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee March 9, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Federal Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano was in San Pedro Monday to tour the nation’s first center that trains cops to deal with terrorism risks at seaports.

It’s called the “Maritime Law Enforcement Training Center” – and the training it provides will prepare officers for a range of security problems linked to ships and shipping. Terrorists could find ports or ships inviting targets for attack, but dealing with that risk is not like securing an airport or a government building.

How do you board a ship and carry out safe, legal arrests? How do you search a vessel? Read charts? Steer that ship into port if you have to?

Two dozen officers from local law enforcement are learning those skills now. They comprise the training center’s initial class.

The State of California spent four-and-a-half million dollars for the training center; the federal government chipped in $3 million to fix up the center and hire instructors. They’ve developed a training course with help from Homeland Security and the California Emergency Management Agency.

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