One Police Plaza

State Police: The Power of Giving

December 26, 2016

Although no one asked for them, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is sending 150 state troopers to patrol MTA bridges and tunnels, supposedly to help the NYPD fight terrorism.

Cuomo couched his announcement last week as part of a crackdown on drivers who skip paying bridge and tunnel tolls. Collection, he said, is to be digitized next year.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t think the more security the better right now,” he said, citing terrorism risks.

Until now, many thought Cuomo was bringing troopers into NYC — starting with two-man details on the HOV lanes in Staten Island — as part of his power feud with Mayor Bill de Blasio. Now one has to wonder whether it’s just a power grab. Another 100 troopers are due next year to patrol the state turf of the Adam Clayton Powell State Office building in Harlem and the Javits center in Manhattan.

Some city pols say Cuomo — who’s believed to be angling for a future presidential run — was miffed that de Blasio and the NYPD got all the attention from the Chelsea terrorist bombing in September while the role of the State Police, which Cuomo sent to the city along with the national guard, was ignored.

One NYPD official said of the governor: “He views an increased state police presence as a photo op.”

This is not to suggest that additional resources cannot be useful in fighting terrorism. Former Commissioner Ray Kelly bragged how the NYPD was protecting the Brooklyn Bridge round the clock after an Ohio trucker had planned in 2002 to cut the bridge’s suspension cables but discovered he lacked the proper equipment. Kelly never explained how on June 26, 2012, a graffiti artist named Lewy BTM was able to climb one of the bridge’s stanchions that rose 119 feet above the East River and tag his name in three spots.

State Police spokesman Beau Duffy said state police officials have been in touch with NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill and Deputy Commissioner for Counter-terrorism John Miller. “We will continue to coordinate with the NYPD on counter-terrorism issues,” he said.

Miller said, “They tell us wherever and whenever they are deployed on state property. We have no issue with that.”

Other law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity were less generous. They say that, while State Police and the NYPD officials get on well individually, officials of the smaller 5,401-person state police recognize they are better utilized upstate and not as auxiliaries to the 36,000-person city force, including its 1,000 counter-terrorism officers.

Indeed, former State Police Superintendent. Joe D’Amico resigned earlier this year in part because he opposed Cuomo’s plan for an increased State Police presence in NYC. [See NYPD Confidential May 2, 2016.]

The recently appointed O’Neill, a neophyte in high-level political power plays, to say nothing of high-level political head cases, played down problems between the two agencies. “George Beach and I are good friends,” he said earlier this month of the state police’s current superintendent.

But law enforcement agencies are notoriously territorial. You can bet that Kelly and O’Neill’s predecessor Bill Bratton, both with international personas, would be screaming bloody murder.


Copyright © 2016 Leonard Levitt