The New York City Police Department says that President Trump’s proposed budget, which includes sweeping cuts across the government, would gut “critical” efforts to fight terrorism in the nation’s largest city.
Police say the funding cuts would hit everything from intelligence analysis to active-shooter training. The blunt assessment was delivered by the top law enforcement officer in Trump’s hometown, who leads an agency tasked with defending the city against terrorism — and, more recently, protecting Trump Tower since it became a de facto “White House north” while first lady Melania Trump and her son, Barron, are living there.
“Under the president’s proposal, nearly all federal funding to the NYPD would be eradicated,” James P. O’Neill, the New York City police commissioner, said at a briefing Thursday afternoon. “This funding is absolutely critical. It is the backbone of our entire counter-terrorism apparatus.”
The Trump administration has defended its budget cuts as necessary and say they follow through on the president’s messaging throughout the campaign. But O’Neill’s criticism appears to undercut two pillars of Trump’s candidacy and the early days of his presidency, as Trump has portrayed himself as a defender of law and order and a strong protector of national security.
— Commissioner O'Neill (@NYPDONeill) March 16, 2017
In O’Neill’s telling, the president’s new budget strips out pivotal money needed to keep New York safe.
“It is the cornerstone of effective preparedness and prevention against terrorist threats, and enables us to do what we can do to keep this city secure,” O’Neill said. “Everyone who lives in, works in, and visits New York City, this money’s critical to keeping everybody safe.”
He added: “Simply put, we cannot afford to cut corners in fighting terrorism.”
O’Neill described the federal funding that would be lost as “essential” to numerous aspects of the NYPD’s counter-terrorism activities, including the city’s intelligence analyst program, active-shooter training provided to tens of thousands of officers and the department’s bomb squad.
That last group was directly involved in responding to a recent terrorism threat, O’Neill noted, pointing out that after a pressure-cooker explosive detonated in Manhattan last year, the bomb squad safely removed a second device that did not explode. Authorities later said that the man accused of that bombing hoped to stage a suicide attack in the city.
“New York City remains one of the top terror targets in the world, and certainly the top target in the United States,” he said. “The federal government has long acknowledged that fact, and to cut that funding would make us increasingly less safe.”
The NYPD remains the country’s largest local police department, with about 34,500 uniformed officers on the force, equal to the population of a small city. According to the New York City Council, the NYPD’s annual budget for the 2017 fiscal year was $5.2 billion.
O’Neill said the proposed federal budget would “completely cut” state and local grant funding from the Department of Homeland Security, which he said would cost the NYPD about $110 million that the department receives annually through the Homeland Security Grant Program.
During the 2016 fiscal year, the program had more than $1 billion in funding available overall, including more than half a million dollars aimed at addressing the “needs of high-threat, high-density urban areas” — in other words, highly populated metropolitan areas facing the risk of terrorism, like New York City.
In the 2016 fiscal year, the New York area received more than $178 million in funding, more than the Chicago and Los Angeles areas received combined, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
O’Neill said it was not yet clear what impact the proposed budget would have on the NYPD’s other daily policing activities.
Part of the department’s more recent activities include protecting Trump Tower. While police officials estimated that it could cost New York half a million dollars each day to guard Trump Tower, they recently lowered that estimate.