Academic journal article Human Organization

Antiterrorist Policing in New York City after 9/11: Comparing Perspectives on a Complex Process

Academic journal article Human Organization

Antiterrorist Policing in New York City after 9/11: Comparing Perspectives on a Complex Process

Article excerpt

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, there was a significant redeployment of law enforcement in the United States, especially in New York City, which included: greater public displays of weapons; increased suspicion, surveillance, registration, detention and deportation of Arab and Muslim immigrants; the prevention of bias crimes against those same people; training for first response to future disasters; and greater investigation co-operation between municipal and federal agencies. This article explores aspects of these changes through the security-civil liberties debate, but goes beyond this dichotomy to include less explicit aspects of antiterrorist policing like dealing with trauma and popular myths of the hero. The process is described from three perspectives, each situated in a different paradigm of social analysis and practice: the rational-Enlightenment paradigm, the power paradigm, and the psycho-cultural paradigm. Some behaviors can be accurately described from a one of these points of view, but no single perspective exhaustively explains all behaviors, especially complex changes in large institutional settings. This article explores simultaneous dimensions of a multilevel process allowing for a causal pluralism, rather than mere relativism.

Key words: policing, terrorism, bureaucracy, New York City

When the World Trade Center was attacked on the morning of September 11,2001, the familiar order of activity quickly unraveled across New York City. Thousands of police were immediately pulled from their usual assignments and put on the streets. Officers who normally taught at the academy, drove the bus to the jail, verified the backgrounds of new recruits, or investigated property crimes, found themselves guarding the United Nations, the Empire State Building, bridges and tunnels, Grand Central Station, and dozens of other locations that supervisors decided were possible targets. Even police academy cadets were sent into the streets to direct traffic.

The police went on twelve hour shifts to increase the number of uniformed bodies on the streets. Many officers explained that, with the commute, twelve hour shifts often meant fourteen to sixteen hour days. Sleep deprivation became a frequent topic of conversation. In addition to guarding and directing traffic, they were digging in the destruction at Ground Zero, sifting through the debris, and helping identify bodies. The New York Police Department (NYPD) started spending about $2.2 million per day on overtime-over $200 million in the first three months (see Gardiner 2001). In all of 2000, with a budget swollen by aggressive street enforcement funding, the Department only spent a total of $237 million for overtime. By comparison, the Fire Department spent $49 million in related overtime, the Sanitation Department spent $23 million in overtime for cleanup, and the Department of Design and Construction spent $199 million to hire private companies to clear over a million tons of debris.

Besides the overtime and sleeplessness, the emotional experience of the job changed after the attack. Most obviously, the death of police, firefighters and emergency service workers made all of them heroes in the eyes of New Yorkers and beyond. Baseball caps and tee-shirts with NYPD and FDNY letters or insignia became ubiquitous. Professionally printed posters and handmade signs honoring their service were plastered on walls. New Yorkers brought flowers to police and fire stations and applauded officers in the streets. One officer said he received thanks and praise from a man he was arresting for a petty larceny. Police-community relations, formerly tainted with high profile shameful events like the torture of Abner Louima and the shooting deaths of Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond, shifted to adoration.

These changes were only the beginning. While the increasing presence and power of armed forces in public life was a trend before 9/11 (see Kraska 2001; Parenti 1999), a surge in militarism occurred immediately after the 9/11 attack. …

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