NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced Thursday that the NYPD is establishing a new anti-terror strike force.
The unit of 350 cops will be specially trained in high-tech weaponry to deal with protests, “lone wolf” attacks and evolving threats posed by terrorists, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
The Strategic Response Group, Bratton said, will be dedicated to “disorder control and counterterrorism protection capabilities.”
“It is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris,” the commissioner said.
Funding for the new squad is expected to come from both the city and federal Homeland Security grants.
“They’ll be equipped and trained in ways that our normal patrol officers are not,” Bratton said. “They’ll be equipped with all the extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and machine guns — unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances.”
The group will be able to more quickly respond to dangerous and fluid conditions, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.
“We’ll be able to give them smartphones, tablets, keep them constantly updated about threats against the facility they guard and if there’s a particular suspect we’re looking for,” Bratton said.
The commissioner said that while the anti-terror response put together after 9/11 was good, the upgrade is necessary to protect strategic locations, houses of worship and iconic landmarks. The changing face of terror threats, including Islamic State extremists and homegrown threats such as October’s ax attack on police in Queens, make it necessary for a new NYPD response, Bratton said.
“And instead have a cadre of 350 specifically trained officers, specifically equipped to perform that highly skilled duty of protecting sites against terrorism,” Bratton said.
The new unit will also move away from depleting neighborhoods of their cops, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.
“We’re able to leave them back in the precincts so they get an enhanced presence,” Bratton said.
Roy Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association, said he supports the move.
“That’s a great idea,” he told Kramer. “To the extent that you relieve the drain on resources in the neighborhoods by assigning an officer to an anti-terror function … I think that’s a very positive thing.
“There’s been a dialogue that’s been happening, which is positive. Any time you have a dialogue and develop a relationship and can see the people you’re speaking to, so this further assists that,” Richter added.
Bratton is also calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to outfit all new subway cars with cameras that would be monitored on the train by an officer in the conductor’s booth, as well as at an off-site location.
The commissioner said he will also ask Mayor Bill de Blasio for more funding to buy more Tasers as an alternative to the use of force. Bratton reportedly wants at least 450 cops — five or six at each of the city’s 77 precincts — to carry Tasers on them, not leave them in their cars, Kramer reported.
Bratton admitted he had more work to do to bring up the morale of the department. A poll done by the NYPD found that a majority of cops fear getting sued or being disciplined by the department.
The commissioner also hinted he would be asking the mayor to hire more cops.