NYPD Snoop Declares Zuccotti Park A “Soft Target” for Terrorists: Really?
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“No, I’m a reporter,” I told him and tried to set him straight that police press credentials don’t have any bearing on whether or not someone is a reporter.
Now it was my turn to serve up some questions. Since they had never bothered to identify themselves as policemen, I asked: “What’s your story…detective?” leaving him a conversational gap to fill in his name and correct me because the odds are, he wasn’t. He declined on both counts. So I asked, “You’re a detective, right?”
“I work for the NYPD,” he replied.
Neither would offer up his name, but I took the opportunity to continue my questioning just the same.
Terror at OWS?
I turned and pointed toward an unmarked police vehicle parked across the street from where we were standing. The truck is white with no markings, save for an NYPD license plate. A 40-foot pole, with a single helix of heavy-gauge electrical cable coiled around it, topped by a video camera, rises from the back of the truck and all day long, that camera is pointed at Zuccotti Park.
Having previously seen officers with jackets bearing the initials TARU – meaning they belong to the Technical Assistance Response Unit, the officers who monitor and videotape protests – enter and exit the vehicle, I asked if it belonged to that unit. “TARU?” the talkative one asked, like he had never heard the term. I repeated it and he shook his head no.
It is NYPD surveillance, right?
It’s not surveillance.
(Now, this was a direct contradiction to what police officer Anthony Torres had told me, on this very same block, just two weeks before, but I kept that information to myself.)
No? Then what kind of vehicle is it?
It’s a white truck.
Yeah, but with a camera on top. If it’s not for surveillance than what is it for?
It’s for the safety of the people in the park.
How does a camera provide safety?
At that, the talkative one meandered through the barricades and into the street, ignoring my question and, I think, trying to get a better look at my notepad. At that, I turned to his partner, who turned out to be the “good cop” of the pair, and I repeated my question to him. He quickly turned talkative and shared his theories.
Think about it, how many people are in this park right now?
Several hundred, maybe more.
You don’t think this could be a soft target for a terrorist attack?
Hold on, terrorists are going to target the park?
He explained that terrorists didn’t care who they killed, so they might well try to wipe out Occupy Wall Street.
If that were true, I asked, why weren’t there similar non-surveillance trucks at events of even higher population density all over the city? As he fumbled, I peppered him with follow-ups, prompting him to change the subject.
He soon went for a favorite bully tactic of New York’s finest, admonishing me that I should really have departmental press credentials.
“No, no, no,” I admonished right back, informing him, again, that those NYPD IDs simply allow some journalists to cross police lines to do crime reporting, but that I was on a public sidewalk, so I needed nothing of the sort.
Then, he took another tack. Hadn’t I heard all the horror stories of crime in Zuccotti Park? I told him I had, but that such an argument hardly helped his case because any crimes there had taken place under the watchful eyes of the NYPD cameras, meaning their surveillance efforts were woefully ineffective in the role he was touting. He countered by saying the protesters in the park didn’t want the help of the police because they had their own security.