Huffington Post: Weakening the NYPD Is a Good Idea

Huffington Post: Weakening the NYPD Is a Good Idea

On Monday, Matt Sledge of the Huffington Post added his name to those who support the recent disbanding of the NYPD unit tasked with understanding and mapping the communities within which jihadis hide. 

In his article, Sledge uses a piece by former NYPD deputy commissioner Paul Browne to undermine the argument that the unit prevented terrorism. His criticism uses selective quotes to misdirect and otherwise misrepresents the actual role of the unit.

Sledge argues that one of the arrests Browne mentions of a terrorist suspect intending to blow up NY landmarks was not the result of the work by the Demographics Unit.

The criticism doesn’t stand for two reasons: as the Deputy Commissioner makes clear, the unit was never intended to arrest terrorists; and the original article talks of several cases and seven others arrests and successful terrorist convictions, not just the one Sledge focuses on.

According to Deputy Commissioner Browne:

Breathless reporting has asserted that police “admitted” that the unit hadn’t developed terrorist leads. That’s like saying Derek Jeter “admitted” to having never scored a touchdown. Right church; wrong pew: It was never the unit’s job.

The tiny unit was there to provide pointers, advice on the environment in which actual undercover officers would work to locate and arrest terrorists–much as the US Army created Human Terrain Teams of cultural experts to advise unit commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Accusations of authors like Sledge flow from the false narrative of organizations such as CAIR that the NYPD unit was spying on 800,000 Muslims in New York around the clock. As I myself have argued with these organizations on Al Jazeera, this is an absurd accusation. As Browne–who should know–points out, the unit never had more than 14 police officers assigned to it, so the idea that is was a superagency monitoring all Muslims in and around New York 24/7 is clearly ridiculous.

More damning from a purely professional point of view is that Sledge attempts to dismiss the whole value of this unit based upon his reading of one specific arrest that involved federal agencies outside of the NYPD, but conspicuously fails to discuss the seven other terrorist arrests mentioned by Deputy Commissioner Browne. Why? Perhaps because these cases are proof that when you look for terrorists, it helps to understand the communities in which they hide?

Sebastian Gorka PhD is National Security Editor for