NYPD officials said on Monday they were prepared against Election Day terrorism threats from both al-Qaida and ISIS, as the department readied itself to make sure the day goes off without a hitch. They also assured New Yorkers they won’t accept potential voter intimidation.
There will be a uniformed officer posted at each of the more than 1,200 polling sites throughout the city with a large turnout anticipated, said Chief of Department Carlos Gomez.
The stepped-up security will include radiation detection, heavy weapons teams from the Critical Response Command (an elite group trained on taking down active shooters) and the Emergency Services Unit, explosives-detecting dogs, more comprehensive bag checks in the subways and hundreds of officers assigned to mobile forces.
“What is the security picture going to look like to average New Yorker? You’re going to see a lot of police: you’re going to see a lot of uniforms, you’re going to see a lot of marked cars, you’ll see at each and every one of these venues there will be an additional detail,” Commissioner James O’Neill said at a news conference in Times Square. “And some of it you won’t see. We’ll have other details out there in plainclothes too.”
Over the weekend, the terror group ISIS called on people to attack voters in the U.S. in attempt to disrupt the election. But NYPD Chief of Counterterrorism James Waters said the department was ready.
“We are well prepared to deal with any situation like that,” Waters said, adding he wasn’t surprised this type of threat came out right before the election. “We understand we are the threat here in New York City, and we plan, train, and we execute versus that treat each and every day.”
These types of threats from ISIS are part of the group’s “M.O.” and on Tuesday New Yorkers will “see what has become part of the normal for New York City,” said Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller.
“ISIS puts out these threats widely over their social media before many events,” Miller said. “We take all threats seriously, but we wouldn’t be doing anything differently in that the deployment ... is basically an all out posture both for public safety, traffic as well as counterterrorism.”
In addition to the visible police presence, Miller said there will be a plainclothes countersurveillance presence looking for suspicious activity.
“We’ve come to a place where we take these things in stride and almost expect them,” Miller said.
Another possible threat is coming from al-Qaida, first reported by CBS News on Friday, citing American intelligence sources, calling for the group to attack on Monday, with potential targets as New York, Texas and Virginia. Waters said this particular threat “lacks specificity and currently the credibility and the sourcing of that information is under investigation and ongoing with no new information since last week.”
Waters said the NYPD has “more than tripled our capacity in our capability to protect New York City” from possible terrorist threats, specifically pointing to the creation of the now-year-old Critical Response Command.
In addition to the possible threats against the city, NYPD officials are preparing to make sure the polls run smoothly on Tuesday in what has been an divisive election season. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called on supporters to sign up on his website to become a “volunteer Trump Election Observer,” repeatedly claiming the election is rigged against him.
Gomez said “should any election-related issues arise, such as electioneering,” officers will have the help of both Board of Elections staff and NYPD supervisors who received instructions in Election Day protocols.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said “the eyes of the world will be on New York City” and the city has an obligation to make sure the day and night go smoothly.
“New York City will never be intimidated — never by threats of terror nor by anyone who wants to do anything to disrupt our electoral process,” he said. “We will not allow any form of voter intimidation.”
In the case of protests, de Blasio said, the NYPD is prepared to handle demonstrations if they go late into the night.
“[The] NYPD has taken into account the historic nature of this night and obviously the unusual nature of this election as well, and has really prepared with tremendous force levels at the right locations,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “We’re not going to be surprised if there’s any kind of demonstration, that’s already been accounted for.”