The New York Police Department’s new counterterrorism unit, the Critical Response Command, which will be composed of 527 officers by year’s end, evolved from a drill held in January after heavily armed terrorists attacked Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper in Paris. Some officers took nearly an hour to arrive, and others came from plainclothes units and didn’t resemble their counterparts in uniform. An observer said they looked “a little too much like the bad guys,” John Miller, deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, tells the New York Times.
The Nov. 13 attacks in Pariis, officials said, validated their idea that a permanent force that could be rapidly dispatched with the appropriate armor and weaponry was needed to counter heavily armed assailants. Police Commissioner William Bratton and other law enforcement leaders complain that the emergence of technological hurdles is hampering the digital surveillance of terrorism suspects, as well as stymying the prosecutions of scores of criminal cases. “We, in many respects, have gone blind,” said Bratton, referring to apps that encrypt messages and smartphones that are inaccessible even with a search warrant. In addition to the Critical Response Command, the department has created a citywide unit of roughly 700 patrol officers — the Strategic Response Group — who are also trained to use and are outfitted with semiautomatic rifles.