With more than 2,500 public and private sector professionals in attendance, the ACAMS (Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists) 15th Annual AML & Financial Crimes Conference kicked-off in at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas this morning. With a full schedule of education and networking sessions for anti-money laundering (AML) professionals, today’s opening session was an enlightening discussion on the current state of the global AML landscape, and its intersection with state and local law enforcement.

As John Byrne, Esp., executive director of ACAMS, noted during his introductory remarks, the September 11th terror attacks marked a zero-hour of sorts in the anti-money laundering space. In the wake of the attack, a framework was created that led to a new era of collaboration between financial institutions and law enforcement.

The Fusion Centers were also created soon after to allow for improved data-flow between federal, state and local investigators. In many respects, as day-one keynote speaker Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, Office of the Sheriff, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, noted, the local law enforcement piece is perhaps the most crucial element to this process.

Local resources are particularly key to finding probable cause in these cases and retaining search warrants. At the local level, law enforcement is agile enough to respond to these threats, but even then, there are challenges, he noted.

“Our detectives don’t talk to each other,” Lombardo said. “Now put it on a macro-level… Our communication has to be symbiotic for us to work [effectively].”

And while improved communication and collaboration is often the first step, Lombardo added that as criminals become more skilled, technical and “interdisciplinary” in their crimes, law enforcement needs to break silos within their own agencies.

While local law enforcement is often willing to rise to the challenge, the problem, Lombardo noted, is a simple lack of resources and a rapidly evolving landscape for local agencies. He cited the recent rise of “home grown” terror cases where perpetrators seek to commit smaller-scale attacks.

Another challenge that Lombardo briefly touched upon is the rise in officer-related shootings and the impact these cases have on the community. As he noted, Lombardo and his agency worked with the Department of Justice four years ago to review their policing practices. After adapting much of the Department’s recommendations, officer-involved shootings declined 60 percent.

Despite these challenges, Lombardo seems optimistic, reassuring attendees that communication and partnerships are key to overcoming a complicated financial regulations and investigations landscape.

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