By Bill Parry
Three days after the ISIS attack on Paris on Friday the 13th, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton warned that New York City “is the most likely target” for another terrorist strike.
Bratton and Mayor de Blasio, went to Randall’s Island and spoke to 110 volunteers officers of an elite new unit before their first deployment on the streets of the city with a clearly defined mission: Kill terrorists before they can slaughter hostages.
“The world is changing even as we stand here. The world changed dramatically over the weekend,” Bratton said. “These officers will be the officers that will be equipped to go towards the danger, the offense, to take on those that might be seeking to perpetuate armed attacks in the city.”
The commissioner said that ISIS is surpassing Al-Qaeda in areas of expertise such as the placing bombs on planes and multiple attacks in urban centers. The NYPD’s new Critical Response Command will focus on Times Square, sporting events, tourist attractions, major events and other soft targets that might be vulnerable to attack,
“It’s a new reality we’re facing here,” de Blasio said. “We have seen truly tragic events over the last few days – most notably in Paris, but we also have to recognize the attack on the airlines in Egypt; the attack in Beirut. They all have a common link in ISIS, and underscore for us just how critical it is to have our own capacity to deal with each and every situation.”
The Critical Response Command will be comprised of 560 specially trained counterterrorism officers based on Randall’s Island where they will have immediate access to the RFK Bridge and marine units on the East River. The teams will have special vehicles; long guns, including the M4 semiautomatic rifle; heavy vests and smartphone devices that will keep them updated on changing patterns, trends and threat analysis.
“We begin with the premise that, when dealing with these terrorists, that it’s all about kill, it’s not about negotiate” Bratton said. “So, at all costs, our first obligation, our first response is to try to drive the speed of our actions to save as many lives as possible to basically diminish the threat, which means taking them out before they can kill others.”
The Critical Response Command will be part of an unprecedented number of NYPD officers providing security for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the elite squad will be at full strength in time for the New Year’s Eve celebration that will bring millions to Times Square.
The headquarters for the unit will be in the building that housed the old street crimes unit. It is currently being remodeled and will include state-of-the-art communications equipment.
The officers will be assigned to every precinct citywide. Each station house in Queens will get an additional police car with two of the officers on every tour of duty, according to Bratton.
“So we have the added benefit of a dedicated unity, and every precinct in the city gets more cops,” he said.
Before the squad was deployed on the streets the commissioner told the volunteers that their assignment is now the most essential in the world of policing. Then he made them a promise.
“We will endeavor to keep you trained, to keep you equipped, to keep you focused – to protect this city, to protect each other, to protect the citizens of New York and the 59 million visitors who come here each year to enjoy all that this city has to offer,” Bratton said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr