New York City Police Department:
Both Past and Present

Written By: Richard T Eckert on 4/9/07
Since the events of 9/11, police agencies around the country have been faced with the daunting task of changing the way they do business.  Increasingly, law enforcement has been faced with the responsibility of dealing with incidents arising from both domestic and international terrorism.  The image of the old “beat cop” has become a thing of the past, whereas police officers are now being trained not only to quell violent domestics, but to assist in mass causality incidents, stemming from terrorist attacks.  This literature review will center its attention on one of the finest police departments in the world; the New York City Police Department (NYPD).  This paper will not only present an overview of the NYPD’s initiatives, but highlight the department’s obstacles.  With the continuous threats of terrorist attacks, the NYPD is not only faced with protecting the citizens of New York City, but attempting to remain one step ahead of the terrorists.  From the lack of funding, to the accusations of civil rights violations, the NYPD has found that fighting terrorism is far from over.  It’s a task which will require the cooperation of everyone, not only those in the law enforcement community. 

New York City Police Department: Both Past and Present
A Review of the Literature
On the morning of September 11, 2001, the world as we knew it, changed forever.  The United States military, working jointly with law enforcement agencies in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC, were put to the test; not knowing what lied ahead.  These attacks proved once again, that the threat of terrorism is not only a problem faced by the international community, but one which can occur within our own boarders.  As a result of the events of 9/11, the terrorists proved, to the entire world, that no country is invincible.  “After the attacks on 9/11, there was a significant redeployment of law enforcement in the United States, especially in New York City, which included: greater public displays of weapons; increased surveillance; training for first responses to future disasters; and greater investigation co-operation between municipal and federal agencies” (Bornstein, 2005, p. 1).   A department of 37,838 (NYPD, 2007), the NYPD is viewed as one of the finest in the world; ready to overcome any obstacle.  A day which started out like any other would quickly become one that would haunt them forever.  No one ever thought that this day would come.      

This paper will focus not only on the initiatives which were implemented by the NYPD post 9/11, but on the hardships they’ve faced since then.  In addition, the author will take a critical look at the systemic problems, faced not only by the men and women of the NYPD, but ultimately the citizens of this great country.  The problems which will be addressed in this paper include:
  1. Counter-terrorism initiatives and possible civil rights violations
  2. Lack of funding to conduct these initiatives.
  3. The question of cooperation between federal and local law enforcement agencies.

Through limited cooperation with federal law enforcement, the NYPD has taken the first step in implementing one of the most elite counter-terrorism taskforces, in the country.  With the increase threat of both chemical and biological warfare, this will prove to be just the beginning for law enforcement.  “It is important that the law enforcement community understand that Weapons of Mass Destruction are now in the realm of possibility for any individual or group to use” (Domestic Preparedness Training Program, 2003, p. I-4).  With terrorism becoming more and more common, the U.S. government must see to it that the safety and security of the American people is paramount.  It’s one thing to make the plans; it’s another to make sure those plans are put to use.        
Post 9/11 Initiatives
No other American city has done more to defend itself against a terrorist attack than New York.  “Its police department, 37,000 strong and larger than the standing armies of eighty-four countries, has transformed itself from a traditional crime-fighting organization into one that places a strong emphasis on fighting terrorism” (Radliffe, 2006).  After 9/11, the NYPD quickly realized that they were up against a very powerful enemy; an enemy that would go to any lengths to instill fear and disaster upon a free society.  “Post 9/11 law enforcement activities in America ranged from the traditional, often characterized as community policing programs, to enhanced intelligence gathering and analysis to military-style tactical units to search, rescue a recovery” (Louden, 2006, p. 7).  Two “activities” which were initiated by the NYPD included: Operation Impact and Operation Atlas.  Viewed as an anti-crime initiative, the NYPD launched Operation Impact in January 2003.  The main focus of Operation Impact was to deploy an increased number of officers to those transits districts, whose crime stats had increased.  These high crime areas were identified by using the department’s well known COMPSTAT unit[1].  The main objective of Operation Impact was considered twofold; to combat crime and to increase the number of officers in high populated areas.  On March 18, 2003, in response to military actions in Iraq, the NYPD launched Operation Atlas, a comprehensive high-security program to protect New Yorkers against possible terrorist attacks.  “Under Operation Atlas[2], the NYPD launched a coordinated defense of the city, using regular patrols as well as police officers equipped with heavy weapons to safeguard landmarks, houses of worship, bridges, tunnels, subways and the transportation system generally” (Ooyen, 2003). 

In addition to these two massive programs, the NYPD also created a Counter-Terrorism Bureau.  Under Commissioner Raymond Kelly, this new bureau was to handle all related intelligence information as it pertained to possible terrorist threats.  Working jointly with the FBI, the NYPD sent many officers overseas to work in cooperation with other departments that were also facing the challenges of terrorism.  As for training, Commission Kelly also ordered the NYPD’s 37,000 officers to undergo training in how to handle chemical, biological and radiological attacks, and he mandated that the Emergency Services Unit (ESU) be prepared to respond to all scenarios involving possible terrorist related threats. 

The attacks of 9/11 caused a new way of thinking, especially for the NYPD.  The department knew that besides the normal law enforcement activities it also had to take a more proactive approach in dealing with the threat of terrorism.  Understanding the complexities of the terrorist organization, the NYPD believed that their programs were a step in the right direction.

Counter-Terrorism and Civil Rights
“In response to the New York Police Department’s unprecedented policy of subjecting millions of New Yorkers to suspicion less searches, the New York Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today filed a lawsuit to halt the practice” (ACLU, 2005).  This was just one of the surprises faced by the NYPD as they continued to protect the city of New York against the threat of terrorism.  Unfortunately, the public’s response was less than welcoming.  The lawsuit, which was filed in Federal court, argued that the NYPD violated the Fourth Amendment rights of those commuters, through the implementation of randomly searching those individuals who chose to enter the New York subway system.  “Since the police adopted this policy, officers have searched the purses, handbags, briefcases and backpacks of thousands of people, all without any suspicion of wrongdoing” (ACLU, 2005).  The ACLU felt that the NYPD’s policy was less than effective in combating terrorism and was just another way for them to pry into the lives of innocent civilians.  “In addition to violating the constitutional rights of millions of subway riders, the NYPD policy appears to be ineffective as a security measure” (ACLU, 2005). 

In response to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU, Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen and Deputy Commissioner for Counter-Terrorism Michael Sheehan both asserted that the program did have some deterrent effect, but acknowledged that the department had made no effort in assessing the programs effects nor did they have the data to support their claim.   It certainly wasn’t the NYPD’s intention to purposely violate the rights of a few selected subway riders.  Unfortunately, there were those who believed the NYPD’s intentions did just that. 

In August of 2006, the U.S. appeals court ruled in favor of the NYPD in conducting random bag searches at subway station entrances.  It was the court’s opinion that the random searches were an adequate method to curb terrorism.  “In light of the thwarted plots to bomb New York City’s subway system, its continued desirability as a target and the recent bombings of transportation systems in Madrid, Moscow, and London, the risk to public safety is substantial and real” (U.S. 2nd Court of Appeals, 2006).  Although the verdict was viewed as a win for the NYPD and its counter-terrorism measures; the agency felt it to be just another hurdle in their fight against terrorism. 

Where’s the Money?
Heavy demands on state and local resources, uncertainties created by a lack of coordination, and dynamics of the terrorist threat underlie many of the challenges faced by the NYPD.  “Since the September 11 attacks, state and local governments have been called upon to provide increased security for their critical infrastructures and key assets, border areas, airports, and seaports” (“National Strategy”, 2003, p. 22).  Unanticipated revenue declines have affected most states and challenged their abilities to meet the requirements of operating under balanced budgets.  “So far, the price tag for all that “self-help” has been nearly $1 billion, most of it New York own money.  That money has paid for the tightest security blanket in the city’s history” (Radliffe, 2006).  With New York remaining at the top of the terrorist hit list, it would only make sense that the Federal government would increase, not decrease their much needed funding.  “NYPD officials said the drastic cut in funding ignored the city’s uncomfortable position as the top target for terrorist strike” (McShane, 2006). 

In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security refused to fund operating costs, like police overtime, instead opting to direct cash towards equipment for those cities that no one would reasonably believe were terror targets.  Faced with massive overtime expenditures, New York City knew that the refusal, by the federal government, to fund any operating costs, would hurt them severely.  In the fiscal years 2000 and 2001 (the two years prior to the World Trade Center attack), an average of about $200,00 of such overtime was attributable to a relatively small anti-terrorism initiative known as Operation Bravo, which was developed after the 1993 attacks on the trade center.  By 2003, overtime dedicated to preventive anti-terrorism operations grew to $32 million, or nearly half of total unplanned events spending.  This included $26 million for Operation Atlas, which began in March 2003, in the wake of the United States Invasion of Iraq.  The remaining $6 million in terrorism prevention overtime in 2003 was allocated to safeguarding the city’s transit and tunnel networks as well as other “heightened alert” initiatives.  An additional $44 million in police overtime was expended on Operation Atlas in the first half of the 2004 fiscal year and about $1.7 million on other terrorism initiatives.  As overtime spending for traditional planned events has come down, its place is being taken by the NYPD’s heightened antiterrorism role[3].  The breakdown of the NYPD overtime expenditures is summarized in Table 1.
With state and local governments currently facing unprecedented demands for their limited resources, it’s becoming almost impossible for agencies, such as the NYPD to adequately fulfill their anti-terrorism initiatives.  “Declines in revenue means that both state and local communities often lack the resources to undertake a full spectrum of prudent critical infrastructure protection measures” (National Strategy, p. 22).  Since post 9/11, the NYPD has taken on a tremendous role in proactive enforcement to combat the threat of future terrorist attacks.  Through increased manpower hours, which in turn have caused severe overtime spending, the NYPD has done what they could to thwart off future attacks.  With the decrease in federal funding, one can only wonder how long these initiatives can continue.  “In fact, state and local jurisdictions continue to bear a large share of the post-September 11 security expenditures nationwide” (National Strategy, p. 22).  Protecting the city of New York is certainly not a cheap task; unfortunately the federal government believes that the job can be done with the least amount of federal assistance. 

Cooperative Effort
“Relations between the Department of Homeland Security and some key big-city and state police intelligence officials, have sunk to a new low” (Stein, 2005).  Instead of relying solely on the federal government for intelligence, many state and local departments have now taken it upon themselves to create their own systems.  “Intelligence-led policing is a very important and welcome advance in both the war against crime and the war on terrorism” (Kelling & Bratton, 2006).  Many agencies, including the NYPD, look at the lack of communication as a severe risk to the people of their communities.  This attitude, by the federal government, leaves the local agencies at a severe disadvantage.  “One of the worst kept secrets in law enforcement is the chronic lack of communication between federal and local authorities” (Schumer, 2001).  In a prepared statement issued by Lee Hamilton, former Vice Chair of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the U.S. [1] (2005), he confirmed the lack of intelligence sharing between federal and local authorities:

Poor information sharing was the single greatest failure of our government in the lead-up to the 9/11 attacks. The failure to share information adequately within and across federal agencies, and from federal agencies to state and local authorities, was a significant contributing factor to our government’s missteps in understanding and responding to the growing threat of al Qaeda in the years before the 9/11 attacks. There were several missed opportunities to disrupt the 9/11    plot.  Most of them involved the failure to  share information. 
After the attacks of 9/11, increased attention was turned to the fundamental problems relating to information and intelligence between federal and local authorities: horizontally across federal government agencies and the intelligence community, and vertically from the federal level to the state and local levels.  While improvements have been made, there is still more work to be done.  “DHS and the FBI are taking steps to improve sharing with states and locals, but more needs to be done to build relationships from the federal level to the state and local levels, to bridge the clearance gap” (as cited in Kanable, 2006).  One of the problems faced by the federal government is the possibility of “case contamination” when their information is shared with other agencies.  On the other hand, the failure of the federal government not to release information could have worse detrimental affects.  “This problem was never clearer and never more threatening than when anthrax was discovered at the NBC studios in New York.  The FBI knew about it for days, but they failed to notify the NYPD” (Schumer, 2001).  As long as this attitude continues, local agencies will continue to suffer.  The NYPD has certainly learned from the events of 9/11; when it comes to relying on the federal government, its best to take matters into your own hands.  This unfortunately, is the sad reality, even after what this country has gone through.

Has Society learned its lesson?
The September 11 attacks demonstrated that our national security was far from impenetrable.  The events of that day also validated how determined, patient, and sophisticated-in both planning and execution-our terrorist enemies have become.  “This highly coordinated nature of the strikes demonstrated a previously unanticipated level of sophistication in terms of planning and execution” (“National Strategy, p. 7).  Terrorists are inventive and resourceful in terms of target selection, as well as in the selection and use of specific instruments of violence and intimidation.  Providing for our law enforcement agencies is only the first step in combating terrorism.  As we move forward to respond to the “new” terrorism, society faces many challenges, none of them insurmountable.  “We must accelerate the development of a global network of law enforcement professionals who are aware of the new challenges-and give them the tools to do their work” (Travis, 2005, p. 6).  By denying law enforcement the basic tools in combating terrorism, society, once again, becomes victimized.  These victims rely on law enforcement agencies for the protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of justice, not only from the everyday criminal, but from evil terrorist organizations. 

Since the attacks of both 1993 and 2001, the NYPD has found itself alone in the protection of the great city of New York.  Through budget constraints and the threat of civil rights violations, the NYPD has soon discovered that fighting terrorism is quite problematic.  These problems, one would think, would be non-existent in the battle against terrorism.  How can society, in one breath, demand the protection from terrorists, but then deny its law enforcement the proper tools, in which to carry out these tasks?

Taking on a more proactive approach, the NYPD decided that random bag searches could help alleviate the threat of subway style bombings.  Organizations such as the ACLU believe that this practice oversteps the job of law enforcement and infringes into the lives and rights of the American citizen.  The NYPD believes that random and systematic bag searches only diminishes the threat of terrorism; a job which they were set out to accomplish.  An NYPD spokesman said that officers would focus on backpacks and containers that are large enough to carry explosive devices.  The NYPD firmly believed that the attacks, which occurred in London, could very easily occur in New York City.  Unfortunately, the ACLU felt these searches to be too intrusive and demanded for the practice to stop, all in the name of civil rights.  “While the NYCLU fully supports reasonable security measures, the NYPD’s unprecedented program of searching innocent people using the New York City subway system violates one of our most basic freedoms” (NYCLU, 2005).  This unthinkable act carried out by the ACLU; proved only to be a hurdle in the NYPD’s defense against terrorism. 
The fight against terrorism has certainly proven to be quite costly to the city of New York.  Faced with budget cuts, the leaders of New York City turned to the federal government for assistance.  “The NYPD’s overtime cost have spiked since 9/11 and the Department of Homeland Security refuses to fund this crucial anti-terror cost” (Weiner, 2006).  The NYPD has taken on the enormous responsibility of protecting the citizens of New York City; a responsibility that comes with a hefty price.  According to the government officials, the NYPD was depending on federal funds to pay half of the $200 million annual tab for subway security and for Operation Atlas.  The federal government’s refusal to help pay for these initiatives have only caused further frustration for the city of New York.  With terrorism becoming more and more likely, one would think that the federal government would do more to protect its boarders.  Providing for the necessary funding and equipment is just the beginning.   

Although the need to share data is not new, exchanging information across jurisdictions and levels of government is more critical in the current threat environment than it ever was in the war on crime.  State and local agencies are continuously looking to the federal government for coordination, support, and the much needed resources to combat terrorism.  “Too many times, local officials learn of security threats by watching the news accounts, instead of getting the warning directly from the federal government; that’s unacceptable” (Schumer, 2001).  Frustrated by the lack of help from Washington, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly created his own version of the CIA and the FBI, within the NYPD.  The counterterrorism bureau was a response to the federal government’s lack of intelligence sharing with the NYPD.  With the federal government withholding critical information, the NYPD quickly realized that fighting terrorism, within New York City, would be left up to them. 

With the threat of lawsuits, lack of funding and minimal information sharing, the NYPD has come under severe pressure and scrutiny.  In the fight against terrorism, federal, state and local governments must make every effort to promote effective information sharing.  Information is a crucial tool in fighting terrorism, and getting the right information to the right party is a top priority.  “Just as former Commissioner William Bratton used problem solving to craft customized responses to vandalism and disorder, so police today must use these same techniques to craft customized responses to terrorism” (Kelling & Bratton, 2006).   

[1] An acronym for “computer statistics”.  COMPSTAT is a method that allows the NYPD to pinpoint spikes in crime and allow for proper and effective deployment of resources.
[2] “Operation Atlas”, NYPD Website
[3] New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO)-Fiscal Brief, Police Overtime: Tracking the Big Growth in Spending. April, 2004.
[4] This statement was read before the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Rick Assessment Committee on Homeland Security-U.S. House of Representatives on November 8, 2005.

American Civil Liberties Union. (2005). NYCLU Sues New York City Over Subway Bag Search. New York, NY: Author.

Bornstein, A. (2005). Antiterrorist Policing in New York City after 9/11: Comparing Perspectives on a Complex Process. Retrieved April 12, 2007, from

Center for Domestic Preparedness. (2003). Law Enforcement Protective Measures: New York City Police Department. New York, NY: Author.

Hamilton, L. (2005). Federal Support for Homeland Security Information Sharing: The Role of the Information Sharing Program Manager. 

Kanable, R. (2006). Information and Intelligence Sharing 9/11: From local to federal levels, sharing efforts are improving, but more needs to be done. Retrieved April 13,, 2007, from

Kelling, G., & Bratton, W. (2006). Policing Terrorism [Electric version]. Manhattan Institute for Policy Research 43, 1-8.

Louden, R. (2006). Who’s in Charge Here? Some Observations on the Relationship Between Disasters and the American Criminal Justice System. Lakewood, NJ: Georgian Court University.

McShane, L. (2006, June 1). N.Y. Steamed Over Terror Fund Cutbacks. The Washington Post. Retrieved April 12, 2007, from

New York City Police Department. (2007). NYPD Website. Retrieved April 11, 2007, from

New York Civil Liberties Union (2005). NYCLU to Appeal Decision In Subway Bag Search Lawsuit. New York, NY: Author.

Ooyen, M. (2003, April 29). Proceedings of the Committee on Public Safety & Committee on Transportation. Oversight: Safety, Security and Preparedness in the New York City Subway System. New York, NY.

Radliffe, H. (Executive Producer). (2006, March 19). Inside the NYPD’s Anti-Terror Fight [Television broadcast]. New York, NY: CBS News.

Schumer, C. (2001). Poor Communication Between FBI and Local Law Enforcement Threatens Public Safety. [Press Release].

Stein, J. (2005, October 2). Local Police and DHS in Cold War Over Information Sharing. Retrieved April 11, 2007, from .html

The National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets. (2003, February).

Travis, J. (2005). Rethinking Law Enforcement in the Age of Terrorism. Interpol Symposium for Heads of Police Training.

U.S. Court of Appeals (2006). Second Circuit, No. 05-6754. Brendan MacWade, Andrew Schonebaum, Joseph Gehring, JR. Partha Banerjee, & Norman Murphy, Plaintiff-Appellee v. Raymond Kelly, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department ; and The City of New York. Online.

Weiner, A. (2006). More Bad News: Anti-Terrorism Overtime on the Rise-Feds Veto Funds. [Press Release].
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