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NYPD to create quick-reaction anti-terrorism force

Members of the MTA Police Department's Emergency Service

Members of the MTA Police Department's Emergency Service Unit patrol outside Penn Station Friday, August 29, 2014. Credit: Craig Ruttle

The NYPD will be putting several hundred officers into a new permanent quick-reaction force to deal with terror attacks, large demonstrations and other emergencies, Police Commissioner William Bratton said Thursday.

In announcing the planned "Strategic Response Group," Bratton said the city will be getting a specially trained unit with access to heavy weapons to handle emergencies without having to resort to the current jerry-rigged system of periodically taking officers and squad cars from each precinct.

"They'll be equipped and trained in ways that patrol officers are not," Bratton said of the SRG cops during a presentation Thursday in Manhattan to the nonprofit New York City Police Foundation. "It will allow us to staff important programs like site protection and critical-response vehicles -- or CRV -- without using precinct personnel."

SRG also will supplement the 1,000-officer NYPD counterterrorism program, which has also been trained in heavy-weapons tactics, a police official said.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the city has cobbled together groups of cops from various precincts to show up with CRVs during emergencies or as a show of force around important locations when terror attacks occur abroad. The city was particularly worried about a Mumbai-style attack by terrorists against hotels or other targets.

But that program, begun under Bratton's predecessor Ray Kelly, was expected to be temporary and was now deemed to be an inefficient use of officers. "SRG addresses that," said Bratton, who added that the new unit sprang from his nearly yearlong re-engineering program to evaluate ways to change the department.

One key advantage to the permanent SRG unit is that cops will work and train as a cohesive unit, NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis said later. Speaking to reporters after the foundation breakfast meeting, Bratton indicated that City Hall may have to consider hiring more officers and finding more money to pull off the SRG program, which he hopes to get underway in about six months.

"We have been in discussion with the mayor in our budgetary proposals and he will be coming out in a couple of weeks and I don't want to speak now," Bratton said.

While the new group is formed, the city will continue to rely on the current CRV deployment plan, Bratton said. But the changing global terrorism environment in which lone wolf attacks and the ascendancy of the Islamic State group also means that the city will have to constantly re-evaluate its counterterror tactics, officials said.

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