New York City has historically stepped up in the face of terror threats, and the city's police presence will continue to protect the public, former police commissioner Bill Bratton said Wednesday, following a deadly terrorist attack that claimed eight lives Tuesday afternoon.
"During my time, my three years as police commissioner specifically, we spent hundreds of millions of dollars that were provided by the mayor and federal government," Bratton told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program, explaining that after the ISIS threat that emerged in 2014, the police spent the next three years building up to deal with a new enemy that was "very different" than al-Qaida.
Tuesday afternoon at just after 3 p.m.., while nearby schools were releasing students, terror suspect Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov drove a pickup truck that he'd rented from a nearby Home Depot nearly a mile on a bike trail in Manhattan, killing eight people and seriously injuring a dozen more.
Saipov was shot and wounded by police after he crashed into a school bus and then got out of the vehicle with two imitation guns, shouting, "Allahu Akbar", or "God is Great," in Arabic.
A senior official said Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbekistan native, was not on authorities' radar, and did not have a case file, even though his name came up as a "possible associate" of another suspect.
After the 9/11 attacks, another former commissioner, Ray Kelly, created a program that required security directors of thousands of country companies in the Tri-state area to be kept informed through emails and notification procedures, said Bratton.
"Several sessions are held each year to keep them updated," said Bratton. "As part of that effort, we are continuing changes."
Part of the changes included preparing for simpler kinds of attacks, such as ones where terrorists weaponized a vehicle, or use a knife or gun to wage smaller attacks, said Bratton.
Also, rental companies are urged to be on the alert for "somebody that seems to be off," said Bratton. "Is there something happening? Are they paying with cash? Obviously, it didn't happen in this [case]."
Meanwhile, Bratton wrote, in an opinion piece for NBC News' "Think" page that "everything, everywhere" can't be protected, but it's important that people don't live their lives in fear.
"Could it have been prevented?" Bratton said. "The New York Police Department works very hard to try to prevent terror attacks. And so many attacks have been prevented. But you can't prevent them all. Yesterday was a very clear example of that.
"I am actually surprised that the perpetrator in this case did not kill and injure more people," wrote Bratton. "The rate of speed he was going — the truck was supposedly traveling at a high rate of speed — and the size of the truck suggests we are fortunate more were not hurt."
Bratton said during his second term as commissioner, there was a significant increase on the counter intelligence unit created by Kelly.
"I added hundreds of additional officers, the officers that you see in the city today, with the long guns and helmets and ballistic vests," he said. "These men and women strengthen our ability to prevent attacks and help us respond quicker if they do occur."
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