The unprovoked stabbing at a Crown Heights shul, thousands of anti-police protesters closing down parts of the city, and the assassination of two police officers eating lunch in their cruiser have given New York Police Department officers sufficient reason to dramatically boost patrols across the city.
Now, the combination of last week’s terror attack in Paris and the reissue of an old Islamic State video threatening the lives of police officers have spurred Police Commissioner William Bratton to send out an internal memo urging police to “remain alert and consider tactics at all times while on patrol.”
The video released by ISIS is not new; it was first posted last September. However, law-enforcement agencies around the country grew concerned last weekend when someone reposted it on Twitter, adding scenes from the France terror attack.
In the video, ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad Al-Adnani tells followers to “rise up and strike their police, security and intelligence members, as well as their treacherous agents,” naming the United States, France, Australia and Canada as targets.
“This one [the ISIS video] is also very specifically directed at law- enforcement personnel,” Bratton said, explaining why his alert focuses on police security. “So we’re encouraging officers that when they’re on these fixed posts, that they be even more vigilant than they might ordinarily be.”
In a press conference Monday, Bratton listed several recent incidents that are adding up to make the NYPD take the video seriously.
Two police officers were killed Dec. 20 in Brooklyn by a Muslim. Analysts are divided as to what sparked Ismaaiyl Brinsley to take the gun on the cops — insanity, anger at police over the killing of a black man during an arrest attempt by a white officer, or terrorist sympathies.
In October, a radicalized Islamist attacked four NYPD officers with a hatchet, critically injuring one. Bratton at the time called it a terrorist attack.
Bratton also mentioned last month’s hostage siege of a café in Sydney, as well as the killing in October of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police guard outside the Ottawa capital. Both were done by Islamists.
“It’s something that we continually try to drive home to our officers, that this is real,” Bratton said. “This is real and we need to be constantly vigilant.”
John Miller, the NYPD deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, told CBS News on Sunday that the measures were cautionary and did not indicate an elevated threat level.
“I don’t think that we are under any more threat … or any less threat than we were the day before,” he said. He added that the video re-release shows that ISIS is “using the momentum from the Paris attacks in part of their messaging strategy to see: ‘Who can we get to follow this?’”
More than 1,000 police officers and civilian analysts are assigned to a counterterrorism unit every day, Miller said, and officers have been in France to study the recent attacks.
One of the five NYPD unions gave specific instructions to rank-and-file members to keep safe.
“If you are assigned to a fixed post, do not sit together in the [police car],” members of the Sergeants Benevolent Association were instructed. “At least one officer must stand outside the vehicle at all times. Pay attention to your surroundings. Officers must pay close attention to approaching vehicles … Pay close attention to people as they approach. Look for their hands.”
The FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a similar bulletin to law enforcement across the country, but in a subsequent statement called it part of a “continuous dialogue.” The warnings followed a Friday “worldwide caution” from the State Department.