NYPD Reversal: Anti-Terror Unit Armed with Machine Guns Won't Police Protesters

Feb. 02, 2015

One day after saying a newly-created police unit armed with machine guns would police protesters, the New York Police Department has backtracked, saying the unit will only work on counter-terror initiatives.

Chief of Department James O’Neill told the New York Daily News that the new counter-terror unit “will not be involved in handling protests and demonstrations. They’ll have no role in protests. Their response is single-fold. They’ll be doing counter-terror work. They’ll be assigned to different posts throughout the city.”

The reversal comes shortly after New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton announced the new 350-strong unit – dubbed the Strategic Response Group – during a press conference at a Police Foundation event. The unit would be dedicated to “disorder control and counterterrorism protection capabilities,” with police citing attacks like the hostage situation in Sydney as examples where it would be deployed.

Bratton originally said the new squad will be used to investigate and combat terrorist plots, lone wolf terrorists, and even civilian protests.

"It is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris," Bratton said, according to CBS News.

"They’ll be equipped and trained in ways that our normal patrol officers are not," Bratton added. "They’ll be equipped with all the extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and machine guns – unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances."

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