NEW YORK CITY — A brand new unit of 350 NYPD officers will roam the city with riot gear and machine guns, trained specifically to respond to terrorist threats and public demonstrations, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced.
Bratton said that New Yorkers would see the unit emerge over the next six months, and that the department is currently looking for officers who might be up for the challenge.
“[The unit] is designed to deal with events like our recent protests or incidents like Mumbai, or what just happened in Paris,” Bratton said Thursday. “It will be equipped and trained in ways that our normal patrol officers are not.”
He added that the unit would be suited up with, “extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and the machine guns that are unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances.”
Bratton said the new unit would enable other officers to stay within their beats, and not get called out to respond to citywide emergencies.
The commissioner's announcement was immediately met by alarm from groups critical of NYPD police tactics. They said the squad would aggravate police-community relations, not improve them.
“[The plan suggests] the opposite of progress,” said Priscilla Gonzalez, from Communities United for Police Reform, an umbrella coalition that is against tactics like stop and frisk and broken windows policing.
“His demands for a more militarized police force that would use counter-terrorism tactics against protesters are deeply misguided and frankly offensive. We need an NYPD that is more accountable to New Yorkers and that stops criminalizing our communities, especially when people are taking to the streets to voice legitimate concerns about discriminatory and abusive policing.”