NYPD Tells Off-Duty Cops To Leave Weapons Home If Going To See Pope Francis


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Fences and barricades went up around New York City as the NYPD and federal law enforcement made final preparations before Pope Francis arrives on Thursday.

With just over 24 hours to go before the papal visit, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton stopped by St. Patrick’s Cathedral Wednesday morning.

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He stood in front of the altar, making sure security arrangements are in place. The commissioner is touring all the venues Pope Francis will visit in the city over the next few days.

“Looking to see it as it’s coming together,” Bratton told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes. “It’ll look very different tomorrow with all of the fencing up and a lot more of the security in place.”

There is already evidence of the massive security operation on the streets. On Fifth Avenue, a Homeland Security truck sits across from the cathedral with barricades waiting to go up.

Security around the five-story townhouse where the pope will be staying is also tight.

The Upper East Side mansion, on East 72nd Street less than a block from Central Park, is drawing plenty of attention as fans come to snap photos of the papal keys on the door of the residence — which was once home to a late 19th century mayor.

As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, police were already screening visitors on Wednesday.

“They’re checking anyone that has a large pouch or backpack before they go into the church,” Cathy Galati said.

The increased security and new attraction is creating some challenges for people who work in the area.

“It just makes life a little harder when you are trying to make a living out here but other than that he’s always welcome,” Edgar Canello told WCBS 880’s John Metaxas. “The pope is great person to have around, but not everyday.”

A fence will also go up on Fifth Avenue from around 55th to 49th streets, similar to the one already up outside Central Park, where roughly 80,000 people will gather for the pope’s procession on Friday.

Bratton said so far, there are no known threats against the pope.

“Fortunately not at this time,” he said. “Once again, that’s pretty much what we’ve been saying all along and that continues to be the case as of this morning.”

Making this security plan even more complicated, the pope will be in the city at the same time as 170 heads of state for the United Nations General Assembly.

The NYPD says it has more than 6,000 cops assigned to the pope and the UN in addition to other resources.

“You’ve got 1,773 police cars, 818 tons of concrete block, 37 miles of barriers and fencing. It’s a lot of hardware and a lot of humans,” said NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller.

More than 20,000-ft of 8 foot high steel mesh fencing lined the west side perimeter of Central Park where 80,000 ticketed spectators were expected Friday for the Pope’s procession along West Drive.

Outside of Our Lady Queen of Angels in East Harlem, teens hoping for a glimpse of the pontiff were already staking out their spots.

“It’s a devotion for Pope Francis, and God, and I’m really happy Pope Francis is coming to East Harlem. It means a lot to me,” Jennifer Sinchi told CBS2’s Jessica Schneider.

Sinchi plans to camp overnight with her sister Jailene.

The Pope will visit the school on East 112th Street on Friday afternoon.

Neither sister attends the Catholic school, but since their parents immigrated to the U.S. from Ecuador they feel a bond with the Argentinian Pope with Italian parents.

“As an immigrant he understands how my parents suffered coming to the U.S. and working for a better life. He can relate to all the Hispanics in the world,” Jailene said.

His Holiness will also speak before 170 world leaders during the General Assembly at the United Nations.

The NYPD also sent a message telling off-duty officers going to see the pope to leave their weapons at home.

“His Holiness Pope Francis will visit New York City city from Thursday, September 24, 2015, to Saturday, September 26, 2015. He will make numerous appearances at events, both ticketed and un-ticketed, during that time. Various city, state, and federal agencies are involved in ensuring a safe and secure visit for his holiness, as well as for members of the general public who plan to attend the various events associated with his visit. All attendees must submit to screening at events, including at the pope’s visit to St. Patrick’s cathedral, his procession through central park, and the mass he will lead at Madison Square Garden, among others. Therefore, all members of the service who plan to attend a papal event while off-duty are hereby advised that firearms will not be permitted. Any member with a firearm will be excluded from the event. Each ticket holder attending an event must have proper photo identification.Minors must have their own tickets and must be accompanied by a parent/guardian who also possesses his or her own ticket.”

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch blasted the order Wednesday and issued the following statement:  “The message ordering New York City Police Officers to leave their weapons at home if they are off-duty and attending a Papal event is dangerous.  Our officers are fully trained professionals who are on-duty around the clock and would represent additional response resources in the event of an emergency.  Limiting their ability to intervene is foolish and flies in the face of common sense and public safety.  It reduces the city’s ability to protect his Holiness, it doesn’t enhance it.”

The Secret Service is the lead agency protecting Francis, but they have been closely working with city law enforcement to carry out the security plan.

Dr. Ruben Maranan and his wife Jennifer from the Philippines came to town to see the Pope and to visit their son who works for UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

The Maranans have tickets to stand along the Pope’s welcome parade route on 5th Ave on Thursday. Anticipating tight security they plan to arrive at 1.

“That’s about 6 hours, 7 hours wait, to get a glimpse of the Pope, but it will be worth it,” Jennifer said.

Thursday night, the pope will hold a prayer service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

On Friday, he’ll head to the UN, then to the World Trade Center site and up to Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem.

He will then travel the west side of Central Park for the papal motorcade before going down to Madison Square Garden for an evening mass.

Street closures, parking bans and even possible mass transit service shutdowns are expected around these venues.

Before heading to New York Thursday, Francis had a full day of events Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday morning, he delivered his opening remarks to the United States on the White House lawn before meeting with President Barack Obama. The pontiff is then spending the rest of the day with Roman Catholic bishops and other church officials and celebrating Mass at Catholic University.

Thursday morning, Francis planned to deliver the first papal address ever to Congress.

Bratton said they’re paying close attention to the pope’s behavior in Washington so they know more of what to expect in New York. He said they have to be ready for his spontaneity.

The massive security apparatus protecting the pope on his historic, six-day trip to the United States got its first test during a brief parade after the White House reception.

A 5-year-old girl was able to make her way through a security barrier and onto the pope’s route. After a quick moment with a pair of security agents, the girl was whisked to Francis’ modified, open-air Jeep, where the pope gave her a hug and kiss.

Security efforts surrounding the pontiff in the United States are a far cry from the free-wheeling motorcade routes of many of his past pilgrimages. Here, nearly every move has been pre-planned and for the first time, tickets are being required for most of Francis’ public processions.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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