Thursday, September 08, 2011

Inside NYPD's counter terrorism unit

The 9/11 tenth anniversary coverage has been exhaustive in the American press. I came across this interesting blog by a Reuters photographer trying to show how the NYPD has adapted and modernised itself since 9/11 to combat all forms of terror attacks. I thought it was especially relevant in the context of the Delhi and Mumbai bombings where Indian authorities appear to be reacting to the attacks rather than pre-empting them.

New York put Vietnam War veteran Raymond Kelly at the helm of NYPD three months after 9/11 for a second tenure as the commissioner and his present tenure is uninterrupted for the past 10 years.Can you compare that with how police officers are appointed in India and how short their tenures are? Kelly  has gradually built a powerful anti terrorism unit. It was he who expressed concern about the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, and took steps to combat this kind of attack at multiple locations. I was stunned to read that NYPD has stationed its officers in 11 other foreign cities. I hope they have one in Pakistan.

There are many things Indian police can learn from NYPD. Just look at their Press Relations page. In today's 24 X 7 media age, the right dissemination of information is also crucial especially during emergencies like terror attacks. Wrong information can get magnified rapidly and lead to a dangerous situation. As an example, I can cite rumours on Nov 28 when the 26/11 siege was still on, and a malicious rumour spread that armed gunmen are roaming around in the city killing people. For nearly an hour, the police made no attempt to deny this information and the rumour kept circulating, leading to panic. I remember a friend of mine ran back to his government office, and the office doors were shut as the rumour said that a gunman was  roaming free at CST in broad daylight.

That NYPD has a crack terror unit does not mean that their ordinary crimes are way down. I looked at their crime statistics.

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