Saturday, August 18, 2012


DEAR SERGEANT AL: Last week I was coming out of my office for lunch when I suddenly saw a whole bunch of police cars with lights and sirens angle parked perpendicularly to the curb and for the cops to get out and either stand in formation and then just stand around it seemed for no reason. Nothing else seemed to be going on. This seems to be a waste of time and the taxpayer’s money for them to be racing to a corner to be standing around doing nothing. It also seemed like a case of hurry up and wait. Can you take a stab and tell me what they possibly were doing, so many cops in the middle of broad daylight standing around waiting for the clouds to roll in? –MOBILIZATION OUTSIDE BECAUSE I or YOU ORDER U 2.
“The Chinese have two symbols for our word “crisis.” One means danger, the other, opportunity . . .” –John F. Kennedy

“Let’s engage the enemy, and see what happens . . .” –Napoleon Bonaparte

DEAR MOBI YOU 2: Wow. By the tenor of your email it seems that you don’t give the police any leeway for a benefit of the doubt. If that is true then be prepared to feel small because if I might be right in my assumption, which is what you are asking me to do that you are already doing it yourself to a verdict, then what you were probably witnessing was something called a mock mobilization. Another possibility is that the cops were on mobilization stand-by awaiting instructions or assignment or for something to happen. They might have been held as a reserve to an incident further away that you weren’t aware. For the past 20-50 years since events like the civil rights protests, the Columbia University Library protests, the MLK assassination and Watts riots, and the Chicago DNC riots all of 1968; the RNC protests at Madison Square Garden in 2004, the 99% Occupy Wall Street protests of late; the G6, 10, and 20, the World Trade Organization, and NATO summit anarchy protests the past ten years, the Crown Heights riots of ’91, the OJ Simpson and Rodney King verdicts and LA riots of ‘92, the Tompkins Square Park fiasco of ‘88, Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, etc., police departments have learned from successes and mistakes to turn the police mass mobilization process into a science-like streamlined procedure that almost mimics an ant or bee colony in a state of hive emergency.
The NYPD and Occupy Wall Streeters go at it with each other . . .
If what I’m assuming is true, what you witnessed was not a waste of taxpayer’s money as it may seem, and in fact if you are the kind of person soooo quick to complain about police misconduct in any one of those incidents mentioned above, then you should be breathing a sigh of relief that whatever lessons were learned in any of those historical events that have affected American history and the police profession in both good and bad terms, that the police get it and are taking steps to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself in a bad way again. A mobilization is a police, fire, civilian, military and other first responder procedure of activating either or both on and off-duty personnel in response to a crisis or emergency that requires a larger presence to deal with an on-going issue that if not corrected can lead to some catastrophe or an even larger crisis. Whether it be a missing child, a manhunt, a campus or theater mass shooting, a HAZMAT bio/chemical agent leak or spill, a natural disaster, a fire or explosion, a political assassination or verdict, a riot, etc., if the crisis is not resolved right there and then, it may require a larger presence of outside police or fire agencies, federal law enforcement and civilian agencies, the National Guard, and if necessary, the President of the United States and the US Armed Forces. If not resolved a mobilization can lead all the way up to a governor or the President of the United States declaring a state of emergency or martial law or the suspension of habeas corpus, as Presidents Lincoln and George W. Bush did during their crises of the Civil War and 9/11, respectively. The US Armed Forces can be alerted from Defense Condition (DEFCON) 5 (state of peace and normal readiness) all the way up to DEFCON 1 which is an all out state of war (usually nuclear).
Now you may think that I have a flair for the dramatic. But remember that great changes happen starting with small steps. It is amazing how something that looks like to most people at first a small Cessna crashing into a skyscraper doesn’t seem like it can turn into something like a full on state of war that we’re still fighting 12 YEARS LATER in the longest war in American history, but that’s exactly what happened on September 11th. I remember a friend calling and waking me up that Tuesday morning. I didn’t have to go into work until the 3rd platoon that afternoon. My friend woke me up to tell me a small plane crashed into one of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center and to cut the TV on. For an hour and half as we spoke I watched a plane slam into a building repeatedly in a video loop and Matt Lauer go on and on about a plane of all different speculated sizes that crashed into the upper floors. Then suddenly there was a new angle of attack but we couldn’t tell if it was new footage or another plane. Sure enough when we discovered it was another plane, and confirmed the size of the aircraft used on both towers and at the Pentagon (don’t forget Shanksville), most of us knew right there and then what we were dealing with. Knowing what I was facing at work I told my friend I had to go. As soon as I hung up the phone, it immediately rang again. Without skipping a beat and knowing who it was when I picked up the phone without saying hello, I said, “when does he want me to come in?” The secretary to my boss, a police inspector, said, “he needs you to come in right now.” I was one of the lucky ones. But my life changed ever since. I’m sure yours has as well.
I didn’t realize it at the moment, but I was part of a mass mobilization that affected the entire state of New York and eventually the entire United States. At first Governor George Pataki of New York declared a state of emergency that effected ALL police departments in New York State. Mayor Giuliani of New York City mobilized all uniformed forces into work. As I drove into Manhattan while most people were leaving the island en mass exodus, I noticed that it wasn’t the NYPD New York City Highway Patrol that was covering Interstate 495 on the Long Island Expressway into Queens County, as they had more pressing problems to deal with at the moment. It was BOTH the Nassau and Suffolk Counties’ Highway Patrols that had shut down the entire west bound highway and entrance ramps probably from Montauk, Long Island all the way down to the end at the Queens Midtown Tunnel at Manhattan. In his state of emergency Governor Pataki deputized all outside and retired fire and law enforcement to order them to present their credentials at any New York City Police or Fire Station House Desk and stand by for instructions. All you had to show was a badge at a police desk that you were bona fide law enforcement and you were utilized. I remember hearing from outside agencies both fire and police, how state troopers had shut down the entire eastern seaboard on I-95 and escort from state line to state line at 100 mph non-stop fire trucks and police cars from as far as Florida and Canada and Maine all the way up or down to New York City. For weeks you can periodically hear the shrill and the roar of Pratt and Whitney, General Electric, and Roll Royce super-sonic jet engines from the US Air Force, Marines, and the Navy as they regularly patrolled the skies of Manhattan. I remember hearing from cops and firefighters from the Great Lakes area who came days after 9/11 into Manhattan how before they left home they saw AWAC planes owned and flown by the Polish Air Force patrolling the skies of the Great Lakes as President Bush activated and mobilized NATO, ironically of all member nations we were the first country in NATO’s history to do so under the treaty’s provision of “an attack on one is an attack on us all.”
So you see MOBI YOU 2, the reason why I explain the mobilization process in these terms to you is so that you understand how serious and far-reaching it can become and how a simple event can compound itself into something far-reaching and dangerous of cataclysmic proportions. While a missing child most likely will not lead to Armageddon, if the police do not respond appropriately, that missing child could possibly lead to a serial child abductor that if not prepared can leave the police unable to keep our children safe, for example. So in mobilizing the police are preparing themselves for ALL possible contingencies, even for things that may happen out of no where that has nothing to do with the ongoing crisis, like American Airlines Flight 587 out of JFK to Santo Domingo, an Airbus A300 that crashed in the Rockaways, Queens, New York during the 9/11 crisis. Remember that? When the plane crashed eight weeks almost to the day after 9/11 we at first thought, oh oh, here we go again, to find out later that the plane crashed because of another reason. But the police had to be prepared for ALL options.
So with this is mind there are basically five kinds of mass police mobilizations you should be aware of that the police activate for a mock or real crisis to maintain their state of preparedness:

1.    1st Level (Squad): Usually called by a patrol officer or detective, perhaps more likely a patrol supervisor or platoon commander activating a squad of police officers and a sergeant/supervisor. If a building or small area needs to be evacuated or searched for a bomb scare, missing child, suspicious package, or a suspect, this level usually suffices. About a dozen or less officers may be utilized. At this level and above all officers must have their riot helmets and batons available just in case.
2.   2nd Level (Platoon): The whole tour of officers working a precinct/service area/district for a given tour is mobilized and comes off patrol to be replaced by an adjoining/adjacent or parent command. A precinct/service area/district commander needs to respond as well. Usually happens when a search area or incident widens requiring more officers. One to three dozen officers may be utilized.
3. 3rd Level (Precinct): The entire precinct/district/service area has been mobilized and its commander or his/her equivalent has to take command. Perhaps several dozen officers will be utilized. The parent command or an adjoining/adjacent command takes over patrol duties and answering 911 calls.
4. 4th Level (Division): This is a big one. At this level a group of police precincts/service areas/districts/divisions is activated. This level is used for larger scale incidents, perhaps a large fire or explosion, a plane crash, a presidential motorcade visit, or a full scale but localized riot like Occupy or Tompkins Square Park. Reserve officers will be mustered and made ready for stand-by at a separate location. Regular and requested single days off are cancelled. The cops need a note from a doctor to call in sick. Arrest teams and paddy wagons may be assembled. Police horses and motorcycles might be utilized. A police commander/inspector or rank just below a police chief or a lower ranking deputy/assistant police chief usually takes charge. Hundreds of officers will be utilized at this level. If it's a big police force the show is impressive, almost like an army.
5. 5th Level (County/Borough/Ward): Depending on the size of the jurisdiction and the department, the whole county/borough/ward/town/city if not the entire police department is mobilized. It’s probably all hands on deck. ALL vacations are cancelled. Off duty needs to come in now or at a designated time in 12 or 24 hours. The mobilization may alter all the officers' work hours and they will incur overtime on an ongoing basis for days or weeks. At least a higher ranking police chief if not the superintendent or sheriff or chief of police him/herself is in charge of the whole operation. They call this when it really hits the fan (or just about to) for things like 9/11, Katrina/quake/tsunami/natural disaster, the Olympics, a political convention, riots affecting several cities like 1968 or 1992, or a massive power outage.

The following video is a NYPD Level 4 mobilization drill:
Anything higher than this that requires the use of other uniformed services or agencies needs the authority of a government chief executive, be it a mayor, county executive, governor, or president to intervene. Part of the mobilization process requires that drills be routinely conducted at all times of the day to test and/or ensure that the agency concerned maintain an adequate level of preparedness. Federal, state, and local law requires some of these drills to be conducted on a regular basis. Sometimes these drills are conducted in conjunction with other agencies. So I’m issuing a warning to you MOBI YOU 2, don’t be so quick to judge. Trust me when I state the cops don’t want to be hanging around twirling their thumbs no less than you do, but part of this process is waiting around for either something or something bigger to happen. The police brass want the cops to be ready and available at a moment's notice in case they are needed for a specific task. Whether a drill or on standby for a disaster in progress or waiting to happen, the mobilization process has become a intricate part of police work no different than routine patrol. If anything, for the time the cops were sitting there doing nothing with your tax dollars as you state, that corner where your office was during your lunch hour was probably the safest corner in the city! Safe journeys for you!

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Sgt. Al here. I welcome your comments, ideas, and suggestions. You have questions about the police, and I'm interested in hearing what you have to say as a citizen. Thanks!