The New York City Police Department announced its plans for a new 350-officer anti-terrorism squad on Jan. 29. The officers — who will be equipped with extra heavy protective gear, long rifles and machine guns — will be stationed at various posts throughout the city, starting with two precincts each in Manhattan and Queens. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s comes in the wake of the citywide protests opposing police brutality and use of excessive force.
Bratton said the unit will receive specialized training, and that Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the plan. Bratton said the squad — called the Strategic Response Group — would be tasked with combating acts of terrorism throughout the city, including events like the large-scale demonstrations New York City has seen in the last couple of months.
Bratton’s comments were met with concern that the squad would be involved in policing protests. Following the backlash, Chief of Department James O’Neill recanted the commissioner’s statement, reassuring citizens that the squad would only be reserved for counter-terror missions and would play no role at protests. It was not announced when the program would be put into action.
Members of the NYU community shared their thoughts on the NYPD’s newly announced program.
“When you militarize the police, it makes the divide even bigger between the people in the street and the police. It’s pretty intimidating. I think a lot of the time it has the opposite effect, and it makes people more willing to commit crimes.” — Alex Jacobs, CAS junior
“I can’t imagine they would want to hurt the people, even though people are mad at police right now. At the end of the day, they do want to protect the people, so as long as it stays with that intention then I think it’s good. Still, it does seem a bit extreme.”
— Felix Gaye, Stern freshman
“I honestly don’t think it’s a good idea to have all those people in the streets with those types of guns. With all the anti-police stuff going on right now, it seems like pretty bad timing and I think people will react negatively to it.” — Jason Lee, CAS freshman
“I’d be more comfortable with it if I knew exactly what they were doing it for. I don’t know how it would make things better. Is being out there with a machine gun really better than a normal weapon?”
— Dannie Juhl, Tisch freshman
“I think creating a unit like that will result in insane crackdowns on peaceful protests, and will hamper the entire city’s ability to show support for causes they feel passionate about. Police should not have military-grade gear like that — it is almost guaranteed to result in more unnecessary deaths of innocent civilians.” — Caty Cherepakhov, LS freshman
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 2 edition. Please email Alex Bazeley at [email protected]