2015-02-11 / Front Page

NYPD Backs Off Original Protest Enforcement Plan

BY LIZ GOFF
Police officials last week backed off a plan presented by NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton that would have created a new, eliote unit of 350 cops to combat terrorist threats and police large-scale demonstrations.

In his January 29 “State Of The NYPD” address before members of the nonprofit Police Foundation, Bratton said officers assigned to the new unit would be trained in counterterrosism , armed with “the big guns” and would wear protective gear while on the street.

Bratton said cops assigned to the new Strategic Response Group (SRG) would have the dedicated mission of protecting locations and being able to assist us in dealing with large-scale demonstrations like those that took place after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Gardner.

The plan drew instant criticism from protest organizers and activists like Kirsten John Foy, head of the Brooklyn chapter of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, who called for a meeting with NYPD brass to discuss the new unit.

“We need clarity about what the intentions of the unit are,” Foy said. “If we come out of a meeting feeling there are serious issues about the unit, we will have to organize robust public dialogue,” Foy said.

NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill issued a statement the following day, saying the department was rethinking the mission of the unit.

O’Neill and other NYPD officials last week met with Foy and community activists and later said the department was backing off the plan announced by Bratton. O’Neill said the NYPD would instead create two, separate new units, one dedicated to counterterrorism and another that would police protests and large-scale demonstrations.

Bratton later outlined a new plan to create a specially trained unit with heavy gear and “big guns” whose officers will be assigned to counterterrorism patrols that are currently handled by local patrol oficers.

The 300-officer unit will deploy officers trained to use heavy duty weapons and will augment the NYPDs elite Emergency Service Unit, whose Hercules teams are visible at potential terrorism targets throughout the city.

Bratton said the NYPD would also create a new “Strategic Response Group (SRG” of approximately 500 patrol officers who would be deployed to temporary assignments in neighborhoods that show a spike in crime, or to patrol demonstrations.

Police sources said the SRG would augment the NYPDs “Operation All-Out” detail, which sends cops from local precincts into neighborhoods with rising crime statistics.

Local leaders criticized the new plan, saying it does not address the problem faced by local precincts when officers are pulled from patrols to police demonstrations.

“Everybody went nuts last December when arrests and summonses dropped,” one Queens leader said. “Everybody screamed and yelled and said the cops weren’t doing their jobs, and that was why the numbers dropped,” the lQueens leader said.

“You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that the cops can’t be in two places at once – patrolling our streets while they’re assigned to sit back and watch the protestors do whatever they damn well please.”

Local leaders said the new plan continues the NYPD practice of taking cops away from neighborhoods to “baby sit the protestors.”

Bratton also announced the establishment of a new patrol model that puts more precinct cops in patrol cars and fewer in specialized roles. “The new patrol model will provide officers wit more and better outreach to the communities,” Bratton said

A precinct Conditions Officer will supervise the additional local patrols, providing officers with more and better outreach with the community, Bratton said.

“The highly localized neighborhood policing plan will be tested in two Queens precincts, with cops focusing on small sections of the community,” Bratton said. Cops assigned to the new patrols will be on the street during day and night tours and “will be freed from the tyranny of the (police) radio,” Bratton said.

Police sources said the new patrols seem “very similar” to the NYPDs highly successful Community Policing units established in the early 1990s under then-Mayor David Dinlios’ “Safe Streets, Safe City” program.

Bratton also said the NYPD will undergo a “complete technical makeover” during the next 12-months.” Every NYPD computer will be replaced and every city police officer will be equipped with a department-issued Smartphone and an e-mail address by the end of 2015, Bratton said.

The Smartphone and e-mail access will make the 35,000-officer departm3ent “the most technologically advanced police department in America,” Bratton said.

 

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