MANHATTAN — Hundreds of NYPD officers were due to finish their shifts Monday night when they suddenly got word that their tours had been extended.
The officers were told to head to a staging area in lower Manhattan, suit up in riot gear and join hundreds of other cops who were arriving for their regular overnight shifts and given the same marching orders.
"They thought they were going home and were as surprised as anyone when they got the word that they had a new assignment," a top police official told DNAinfo.
But this NYPD operation was anything but last minute. It had been in the works for a while, sources said.
The roughly 600 cops that marshaled in Zuccotti Park early Tuesday were part of a long-planned strategy to clear the Lower Manhattan encampment. Mayor Michael Bloomberg may have declared the final decision to act was his, but the plan to ouster the protesters had NYPD written all over it.
The plan relied primarily on time-honored crowd control strategies previously employed at large gatherings such as the 2004 Republican National Convention and other demonstrations.
The two-month encampment, however, provided the NYPD with the time to study the protesters, to gather intelligence about them and to predict the size of their group at various times of day and gauge how they would react to being evicted.
The cops also had the element of surprise and could dictate what day and time to move in.
Sources told "On the Inside" that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the days when the greatest numbers of cops are already on duty. It guaranteed the NYPD would have ample manpower in the event of any unforeseen circumstances.
By striking in the dead of night, the NYPD not only confronted a sleepy crowd, but also the smallest possible number of protesters.
The NYPD brought in cops on the evening tour to replace those held on overtime through the day by Tuesday night.
"We had put in place plans to take action at Zuccotti Park if in fact it was going to be done," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told NY1. "We had put that construct in place, had it on the shelf."