NEW YORK (AP) — In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, New York's police department is expanding training for what it sees as the most serious terror threat today — "active shooters," terrorists who, rather than detonating a homemade bomb in busy a location like Times Square, simply arm themselves with high-powered rifle and open fire.
Commissioner William Bratton said the new training for the nation's largest police force is based in part on lessons brought back from an NYPD team that was sent to Paris and given widespread access to the scene of the shootings.
"We'll be issuing very shortly guidelines to every police officer to carry in their memo books on how to deal with active shooters," Bratton said this week, noting more officers will be trained like the NYPD's elite Emergency Services Unit, which responds to the most dangerous calls, such as shootings and terror attacks.
More officers will be trained with "better weapons and better tactics," Bratton said. The new training builds on an effort that began in 2009 after a three-day assault in Mumbai on luxury hotels, a Jewish center and other sites in November left 164 people dead. At the time the department trained an additional 130 officers on how to use semi-automatic rifles loaded with armor-piercing bullets in close-quarters combat, and on how to rescue hostages in hotels and other high-rise buildings.
Bratton added, without elaboration, that a number of other initiatives were in the works that would expand on "both our deterrents and our response capabilities."
"We do remain, because of who we are and what we are in this city, the No. 1 terrorist target in the world," he said. "It hasn't changed in the past year. It's expanded because terrorism has expanded."
In the aftermath of last week's attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and later a kosher supermarket that left 17 people dead, the NYPD went on high alert, mobilizing armed teams to guard sensitive locations, combing intelligence for any sign of a copycat plot, and sending all 35,000 officers reminders to be extra vigilant and "consider tactics at all times while on patrol."
Police had already been told to double up on patrol and to have an officer stand guard while another is in a patrol car. Those directives followed the shooting death of two officers in their car Dec. 20 by an emotionally disturbed man who vowed online to kill two "pigs," and the re-release of a September 2014 video from ISIS that encourages followers to "rise up and kill intelligence officers, police officers, soldiers, and civilians."
Bratton also said efforts to expand the counterterrorism operation in New York were quietly being accelerated.
"We're going to focus even more energy and resources on what my predecessors built," the commissioner said. "They built the most robust counterterror capabilities of any city in the world."
More than 1,000 police officers and civilian analysts are already assigned to a counterterrorism mission every day and others can be brought in as necessary. The department has a network of thousands of private and city cameras that can track a bag left at subway station too long. Officers have handheld radiation detectors. And technology is only improving, with officers receiving smart phones and tablets for daily use.
Locations where critical response teams are sent are reviewed daily, based on threats, said John Miller, deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism. He wouldn't specify which locations.
"Obvious outreach partners would be key members of the Jewish community who have voiced concerns from the beginning of this. Those are in progress," Miller said. "The other obvious outreach are key members of the Muslim community. Those are also in progress."
Last year, Bratton disbanded the Demographics Unit, a team of detectives within the NYPD's Intelligence Division assigned to create databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. An ongoing review of the division found that the same information collected by the unit could be better collected through direct contact with community groups.
But the department hasn't abandoned a practice adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks of using Muslim informants to try to detect and thwart terror threats. The Intelligence Division is continuing to debrief Muslims arrested for petty offenses to see what they know about other crimes and if some could be persuaded to volunteer as informants.
Bratton defended the debriefings, saying they are essential, and don't single out Muslims.
This week, Bratton said the NYPD needed to work hard with the Muslim community, "as they wrestle with those within who are trying to hijack their faith, who are trying to distort all the meaning of it."
Associated Press Writer Tom Hays contributed to this report.