I applaud Kelly for refusing to back down in the face of criticism. Under his leadership, the Demographics Unit took down more than a dozen terror plots. Let’s not forget that the Boston terrorists had six more bombs with them, and were headed for New York when they were halted by the brave Watertown, Mass., Police Department.
If they had made it to New York or New Jersey, the mapping and surveillance of the Demographics Unit would have given our law enforcement officials an upper hand. The fact that the NYPD knew the killers were Chechen and had already been actively gathering intelligence within the Chechen Muslim community could have sped up the investigation and potentially saved New York from an attack.
The de Blasio administration and new Police Commissioner William Bratton believe they can get the same intel gathered by the Demographics Unit through direct community outreach. I disagree. The Muslim community is already apprehensive of law enforcement. Many Muslim student groups and mosques don’t trust the police and don’t believe in cooperating due to the fear of being profiled as a terrorist organization or a group that harbors and supports terrorists.
I believe it’s a big mistake to close the Demographics Unit. It didn’t violate any constitutional rights, and was a legitimate police unit aimed at protecting New Yorkers. By abandoning the program, we are giving in to the notion that the NYPD was biased and violated the Constitution, and surrendering to political correctness.
To me, there is nothing biased about gaining intelligence on a community that is known for harboring and supporting terrorists who have come to America to harm innocent civilians.
The war on terrorism has dealt groups such as Al Qaeda a major blow, disrupting the overall organization and its largest splinter groups, but “self-starter” terrorists are on the rise. The risk of attack is as high as ever, and that’s why it is critical to continue the operations of assets such as the Demographics Unit, not only in New York and New Jersey, but throughout the nation.
Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column? ADAmato@liherald.com.