Terror Makes All the World a Beat for New York Police
As it moves ahead in a post-Sept. 11 world, the New York Police Department is taking on many jobs that were once the sole province of federal authorities, from posting officers abroad to creating a medical staff to analyze the potential impact of weapons of mass destruction.
New York City detectives will be assigned overseas to work with the police in several foreign cities, including ones in Canada and Israel. Assignments in the Middle East and Southeast Asia are under discussion. A detective will be used as a liaison to Interpol, the international police agency based in Lyon, France, and two detectives have been assigned to F.B.I. headquarters in Washington to speed the flow of information. The department also plans to assign a police official to New York City's lobbying office in Washington to handle the department's dealings with other federal agencies.
Teams of investigators assigned to the Police Department's new Counterterrorism Bureau have been trained to examine potential targets in the city with an eye toward hardening them to potential attack. The teams have evaluated high-profile sites including the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center and the United Nations, as well as the city's bridges.
"We want to emphasize, we're not looking to supplant anything that's going on in the federal government — this is to augment," Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said recently in his office at Police Headquarters in downtown Manhattan. "Why are we different? Well, we've been targeted. We're sitting 10 blocks away from why we're different."
Such augmentation includes an ambitious program this month to survey and test those officers with language skills, from Pashtun and Urdu to Arabic, Fujianese and other dialects, and train others. Detectives and analysts in the department's revamped Intelligence Division are already reading foreign newspapers and monitoring Internet sites.
Detectives have also visited more than 1,000 businesses around the city — from heliports and chemical and explosive supply firms to Army-Navy stores and those that sell Hasidic garb and scuba gear — to build a frontline defense to thwart those who might be preparing for an attack. Such aggressive antiterrorism measures were largely the responsibility of federal authorities before Sept. 11.
The uppermost ranks of the department have visited the Naval War College in Rhode Island, and war-college trainers will soon be brought to the city to work with other senior police commanders. The department is also setting up several backup command centers in different parts of the city in case a cataclysmic event puts 1 Police Plaza out of operation, and has created several backup senior command teams so that if the highest levels of the department are killed, individuals will already have been tapped to step into their jobs.
Commissioner Kelly, who detailed the new measures in recent interviews and has touched on some of them in recent speeches, said they were part of a broad effort to help prevent another terrorist attack and to better prepare for a possible next strike.
Mr. Kelly regularly points out that New York has been a target of terrorists four times in recent years — twice successfully. His overall effort has put the department on a war footing, meant not only to address past weaknesses but also to make the agency the national model for counterterrorism preparedness.
Mr. Kelly says that the department is working more closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies than it has in the past, and will continue to do so, despite what some officials describe as struggles over information sharing. "The federal government has a national focus," Mr. Kelly said. "We have a much more parochial focus. We feel we have to protect ourselves."
Because the new Counterterrorism Bureau and the Intelligence Division are undertaking tasks that have never before come under the purview of the police, Mr. Kelly said, he has chosen their leaders with experience that has little or nothing to do with the more mundane aspects of municipal policing. In January, Mr. Kelly appointed a retired Marine lieutenant general, Frank Libutti, to head the department's counterterrorism efforts and David Cohen, the former director of operations of the Central Intelligence Agency, where he served for 35 years, to head the Intelligence Division.
Last month, Mr. Kelly named Dr. Kevin Cahill, the head of the Tropical Disease Center at Lenox Hill Hospital, as the department's chief medical adviser for counterterrorism. Dr. Cahill, who diagnosed two cases of anthrax in the city last fall, recently formed a board to advise the department on how to protect officers and others responding to catastrophic incidents.
Under Mr. Libutti's supervision, the department is also undertaking a comprehensive training program to teach patrol officers, who most likely would be the first to respond to any attack, including one with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, what to look out for.
Other changes deal not necessarily with responsibilities that once belonged solely to the federal government, but with issues specific to New York City. The rescue effort at the World Trade Center, in which 343 firefighters were killed, was plagued by radio problems and lack of communication between the Fire and Police Departments.
With an eye toward improving communication and relations with the Fire Department, Mr. Kelly, with the support of Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, has set up liaison offices in the two departments' headquarters and begun flights for fire chiefs in police helicopters so they can serve as airborne command centers.
"These are things the P.D. needed to do for some time and had not done," said Jerome M. Hauer, the director of the federal Office of Public Health Preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services, who led the city's Office of Emergency Management under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
As head of the Counterterrorism Bureau, Mr. Libutti oversees the more than 100 city police detectives who work terrorism cases with the F.B.I. as part of the Joint Terrorist Task Force, and a roughly equal number of investigators who work cases supported by the intelligence-gathering efforts of Mr. Cohen's staff. Mr. Libutti said that the department quadrupled the number of detectives assigned to the task force after January.
Mr. Cohen said the Intelligence Division and its 700 investigators now devote 35 to 40 percent of their resources to counterterrorism, up from about 2 percent before January.