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60 Minutes profile of the New York Police Department (NYPD): Great PR, Bad Guys beware.

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As a crisis counselor who has worked with law enforcement, I saw the “60 Minutes” Sept.25 “Fighting Terrorism in New York City” as a terrific PR coup for the NYPD and Commissioner Raymond Kelly.  It was also a great get for “60 Minutes.”

The PR community has been talking about the treatment, including Scott Van Camp’s blog PRNews. From my media training perspective, the NYPD provided CBS with numerous sound bites and anecdotes that the producers picked up on.  The example of the NYPD cricket leagues is the ultimate anecdotal proof point of the broad statement that the police are trying any and all ways to gain intelligence about any possible terrorist plot.

The other excellent example was the police boats in NY harbor that are trying to detect “dirty bombs”.  The scanner technology is so sensitive that it can pick up radiation traces from an individual undergoing cancer treatments.

Kelly comes across as thoughtful, organized and committed to public safety.  I believe he had messages for a number, but not all, audiences.  In fact CBS gave him a pass – at least in the edited version – on how the NYPD balances security with protection of civil liberties.

For New Yorkers, including people who visit and do business there, the message was, “Be confident; we’re doing everything we can.”  For the bad guys, and it didn’t take the “Casablanca” movie imagery to score the point, the message was, “Don’t try to attack New York.  We have many ways of detecting your plans.”  While terrorists and Al-Qaeda in particular appear to like challenges, the other implied story is: “We’re not telling you everything we do.”

As to Kelly’s hesitation on the question of whether the NYPD would shoot down a plane, he was both candid and trying not to reveal all of the tactics that might be used to thwart a plot.  He was also forthright in discussing the “luck factor” in uncovering terrorist schemes, such as last New Year’s Eve Times Square bombing attempt.

Scott Pelley probably asked but didn’t use the question of whether $3 billion to improve New York’s terrorism force was too high a price to pay. Pelley also didn’t question whether New York was taking over a role that should belong to the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security.  Due to the real and symbolic importance of New York City to the US and the globe, the answers to these questions are that is that no price is too high for our security, and New York will do what it takes over and above what other agencies will provide.

It was compelling TV.  What do you think?

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