Daily News: NYPD counterterrorism boss says city should have latitude in spending of federal funds

BY Joseph Straw
Daily News
May 5, 2011

The NYPD's top terror fighter urged Congress on Wednesday to let city cops spend more mass transit security money as they see fit – regardless of federal guidelines.

Congress has proposed forcing police departments to devote 90% of homeland security transit grants to hardening at-risk targets, with just 10% to be spent on manpower costs.

Law enforcement and homeland security pros bemoan the proposal as a "fences vs. cops" funding split.

"Clearly, funding for capital improvements to enhance security makes good sense, but the right balance between capital and operations is important," NYPD counterterrorism czar Richard Daddario told a House Homeland Security panel.

"Some of the things we do wouldn't be possible without federal funding," he added.

Daddario pointed to the NYPD's reliance on federal grants for security efforts like smart video systems in the subway and uniformed cops for random bag checks.

He also said Uncle Sam helps foot the bill for police dogs and heavy weapons.

Funding flexibility may be even more crucial in the upcoming fiscal year because lawmakers have proposed whacking operational funding this year by more than half, from $51 million to $25 million.

Large cuts, Daddario warned, "would compromise the level of security we have, quite frankly."

Daddario's plea fell on sympathetic ears.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) agreed that cutting transit security could be a disaster.

"To me, clearly, if we're talking about potential targets, no one is more of a target than our mass transit system," said King, who noted Najibullah Zazi's foiled bomb plot that targeted city trains last year.

Added Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the panel's top Democrat: "In the wake of Osama Bin Laden's killing, we have an obligation to protect mass transit and the 34 million people who rely on it."

Meanwhile, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand renewed her push this week for planned security upgrades at the Manhattan Federal Courthouse.

The $28 million plan includes a new security screening center outside the Moynihan Courthouse in lower Manhattan.