The subway station at 43rd and 8th Streets in Manhattan was temporarily closed July 19 after a bag placed on the staircase exploded, burning a police officer. Officials have said the bag contained only fireworks, but that it was bundled to look like a bomb. The blast drew a rapid response from the New York City Police Department — and though the investigation is continuing, it is plausible that the faux bombing could have been planned as a non-lethal way of testing New York City's emergency response systems. Gauging responses and reaction times by the NYPD, emergency medical services and fire department could make it easier for terrorists to carry out a real operation in the future. The July 19 incident put the NYPD — already tense amid preparations for the Aug. 30 through Sept. 2 Republican National Convention — further on edge. The department already is fielding 1,000 police officers on the streets daily as part of the war on terrorism — something officials acknowledge is putting pressure on patrol strength and overtime costs, which this year are projected at a city-wide record of $345.9 million. The threat environment — with warnings of a possible al Qaeda attack in the domestic United States within the next few months — has placed additional strains on many, if not most, U.S. law enforcement, intelligence and emergency agencies. The atmosphere has not been aided by their relations with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which — with its communication process still evolving — frequently is regarded as more of a hindrance than an ally in the war on terrorism. In light of these circumstances, STRATFOR has learned, many metropolitan police departments — including those in New York and Los Angeles — are taking the lead on counterterrorism efforts within their own cities and elsewhere. Some of the methods employed by the NYPD of which STRATFOR has learned include:
Since Sept. 11, NYPD has established close relationships with foreign law enforcement and security personnel. This move stems in part from threat information dissemination problems between federal agencies and their state and local counterparts: Because of security criteria, information cannot flow smoothly and freely from top to bottom.
The NYPD actively is reaching out to state and local police agencies throughout North America. These communication efforts are part of an overall attempt to generate good will and smooth cooperation at the local law enforcement level nationwide — especially in high-threat cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago, among others.
The department is taking part in a program to train service personnel in some important locations — such as doormen, maintenance workers and delivery people — to recognize threats and take appropriate action.
With better communication, the NYPD also has improved response and contingency planning involving other agencies, such as the New York/New Jersey Port Authority.
The NYPD and possibly other agencies are taking a proactive approach to terrorism. That is not to say that local law enforcement agencies have completely eschewed the aid of the federal government: New York City and Boston still will employ a number of DHS assets, including the Secret Service, during the upcoming Republican and Democratic National conventions. However, the DHS — still in the growth and definition process — has not yet established itself as a reliable administrator. For local law enforcement agencies, necessity has become the mother of invention.