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Cops have city in lockdown

Unrest, Conflicts and WarDemonstrationTerrorismNew York City Police DepartmentArmed ConflictsJobs and WorkplaceAl-Qaeda

The New York Police Department has left nothing to chance in preparing for the Republican National Convention.

Throughout the subway system, every storage and equipment room has been locked, with workers able to gain access only after a supervisor is notified and shows up with a key.

Every pier along the Manhattan waterfront has been checked, with police to conduct further checks throughout the week.

Every truck coming into Manhattan is slated to be searched, with National Guardsmen supplementing cops from the Police Department and the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority.

The NYPD continues to say it's ready for anything thrown its way as it faces a double threat: protecting the nation's largest city against a terrorist attack while dealing with what is expected to be an unprecedented series of protests and demonstrations.

But police sources said the department privately is worried that a terrorist — someone ostensibly calling for an end to war, or carrying a sign criticizing President George W. Bush — might be able to slip unnoticed into a large-scale protest and detonate an explosive.

"It would be hard to detect if the crowd is large and rowdy," one source said. "With a lot of these groups they just show up and protest. There's not a lot of preparation. We won't have a lot of time to watch everyone."

Advance warnings expected. A second source, however, said the department's success in having some undercover officers get close to leaders of some of the self-described anarchist groups gives them an edge.

If a particular group is planning a rally in front of a midtown hotel, for instance, the NYPD should get advance word from its undercover cops quickly enough to dispatch a battalion of officers to that scene.

"Hopefully, our undercovers can spot any problems," the second source said.

Several cops interviewed by Newsday said they are surprised, given the size of the city and its myriad targets, that terrorists have not struck here since Sept. 11, 2001.

Several other officers, however, citing reports of al-Qaida members heard talking about the massive police presence in the city, said the NYPD's focus on terrorism — 1,000 cops dedicated solely to anti-terrorism efforts on any given day — is making a difference.

All cops have undergone terrorism training, which is dismissed by some as cursory and useless, praised by others as necessary and eye-opening. The department also has primed the rank-and-file for what it can expect from the more strident protest groups — golf balls hurled at them, fabricated claims of police brutality, provocative goading and in-your-face obscenities.

"Probably the number-one impact that is going to be occurring in the city is going to be protest activity," said Tim Horner, a senior director with Kroll & Associates, the noted security consulting firm in the city.

Another security expert, Tanner Campbell, vice president of the Maritime Intelligence Group, a Washington, D.C., firm specializing in port security, said whatever havoc protesters or anarchists might cause pales by comparison with what a terrorist cell could achieve.

Weighing the risks. "They are going to pose significant risks," Campbell said of protesters. "But at the same time, they are not going to kill 3,000 people."

Campbell, whose firm has trained NYPD and U.S. Coast Guard personnel on how to use a computerized database that tracks cargo containers, said a political convention is the perfect target for an al-Qaida hit.

"When you look at the RNC, you see the attractiveness of the project," he said. "But on the flip side, this is one thing that we are very prepared for."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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