The NYPD lost 23 officers on 9/11, as compared with the FDNY’s 343. But the event changed the Police Department in much more fundamental ways, aside from casualties. Before 9/11, there were fewer than two dozen officers working full time on counterterrorism. Now there are upwards of a thousand. There are NYPD outposts in London, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Tel Aviv; they constitute the city’s own private intelligence agency, run by a former CIA officer named David Cohen. There are also networks of informants in mosques and Arab-American communities. These activities have sometimes brought the department into conflict with the FBI and CIA, but Commissioner Ray Kelly has been unapologetic. “We couldn’t rely on the federal government,” Kelly told a reporter for this magazine in 2003. “We’re doing all the things we’re doing because the federal government isn’t doing them.”
The theater of policing changed, too. Before 9/11, you never saw an automatic weapon in New York, the way you would in European cities. Now some cops—the Hercules Patrols—seem to have stepped out of a Schwarzenegger movie, bearing entire arsenals [N2]. Suddenly, without warning, police will flood an area, to keep the terrorists guessing.
The terrorists, of course, are not the only ones who are feeling this heat. The threat of terrorism justifies all means of prying into the lives of citizens, which seem minor until they’re not. A network of cameras blankets much of the city. There are occasions when protesters have been denied permits—and even when they haven’t been, at times they’ve been penned in by barricades that seem to criminalize their free-speech acts.
From the archives
• Al Qaeda’s New York (New York Magazine, May 21, 2005)
• Damned If We Do, and Don’t (New York Magazine, August 7, 2005)
• The NYPD’s War On Terror (New York Magazine, February 3, 2003)
N2: Hercules Patrol
Securing the City author Christopher Dickey reported that the counterterrorism unit’s standard complement of gear includes a Kevlar helmet, body armor with ballistic plates front and back, an M-4 carbine with collapsing stock, and a Smith & Wesson 9-mm. sidearm with fifteen rounds in the clip and one in the chamber.