Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hats off to NYPD

By Don Klein

If a terrorist attack is inevitable in the United States, as so many experts predict, we should hope that it comes off in New York City. I know that doesn’t sound right, but the hope is it takes place where there is a first class police department.

Just imagine if the Times Square car bomber had decided to decimate Toledo, Ohio, or Biloxi, Mississippi instead? No one would have noticed the flames from the car and it would have exploded possibly killing a curious cat, two stray dogs and homeless man who curled up against the car’s fender.

The local cops would have eventually converged on the scene and scratched their heads for 15 minutes before calling for expert help which would have arrived hours later. The culprit by this time would be well on his way out of town heading for the next major airport and eventually getting on a Dubai flight unnoticed.

But not in New York. With all its problems, or maybe because of them, the NYPD is the most professional, most efficient and smartest collection of crime fighters in the country. They deserve a standing ovation. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said it took 53 hours and 20 minutes to make an arrest in the case. It takes longer than that for a small business to fill out an application for a bank loan.

The task was monumental as detectives fanned out after the discovery of the plot to interview thousands of guests at nearby hotels. They talked to tourists and vendors on the streets for evidence. They explored every nook and cranny along the route believed taken by the car owner. This could only be done by a large and experienced assortment of smart cops.

In many ways this may not be an indorsement of the city where the variety and complexity of crimes makes its gendarmes the most knowledgeable in handling wrongdoers. They prove time and again to be better than any other departments in the country because they have to in order to keep up with the multifariousness of lawbreaking in a large metropolis.

Who would have thought that the suspect in the West 45th Street bombing attempt would be in custody in 53 plus hours. I know some will say it was not all NYPD. There was the FBI and Homeland Security agents involved, but none could have been done their jobs if the grunt work was not performed first by the officers in blue on the streets.

The FBI blew the tailing of the suspect and lost him for three hours while he was awaiting his escape flight at JFK International and the jacks at Transportation Safety let him through the security check point, often a barrier for innocent travelers carrying "weapons" as large as miniature nail clippers.

The New York cops on the other hand, just did their jobs. They uncovered the suspect’s auto VIN number, a key to eventually tracking him down. They were the people who recognized the seriousness of the situation immediately and did the initial forensics.

Most importantly, they made sure the innocent bystanders –- tourists and residents alike -– on the nation’s busiest streets were kept safe.

They were the law enforcement representatives who where most in danger before anyone learned the bomb was faulty and would not fire. They were the ones poking around the vehicle looking for clues when it was still "hot." The FBI and others arrived when the scene was considered neutralized and out of danger.

A real tribute to the reputation of the New York police was the first words out of the suspect’s mouth once nabbed by the Border Patrol at the airport. He looked at the officers and asked,"Are you NYPD or FBI?" In the old days it would have been the NYPD, but now international airports are in the jurisdiction of the Customs and Border Protection agency.

Too often cops are badgered for the bad things they do, but when there is an emergency you can always count on the quick action of New York’s Finest. They rush towards danger while all others run in the opposite direction. Remember the indelible scene of cops and firemen racing into the mortally crippled World Trade Center while frightened occupants ran for their lives.

When they make mistakes it is usually a whooper, but when they do the right thing it is a classic.

And in these days when we are constantly the target of fanatical Muslims who believe the US is anti-Islamic, we can thank God for the NYPD. Be happy they are on our team. Too bad there aren’t more police departments like them.

As good as they are, though, the prediction is that there will be a successful attack on New York. If there is, the only solace the rest of us have is the police won't let the perps won’t get away with it.

So let’s take our hats off to the cops for doing their jobs in quick order and hope that their diligence never diminishes. They are our first line of defense. They may not be able to stop every fanatic determined to hurt innocent people, but they will make them all pay dearly if ever they try.

While cops in Arizona are learning that now they can harass innocent people on the streets and demand their papers like they used to do in Nazi Germany, the police in New York just do their job of protecting us all from the bad guys. The latter is nobler.