Plans to use police uniforms in terror plot sparks concerns

Reaction from former Yonkers police commissioner


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," January 16, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: To former Yonkers, New York, Police Commissioner Ed Hartnett on just how difficult this is getting to fight, especially if they wear the uniform.

ED HARTNETT, PRESIDENT, BROSNAN RISK CONSULTANTS: Neil, it's very troubling. It's chilling. I would like to think that these uniforms were acquired in some way, that they weren't supplies by police. I think it's unlikely that the police were involved. You can't rule it out.

CAVUTO: I didn't even think of that. Yes.

HARTNETT: Yes. But there's also -- like there's vendors that are sometimes unscrupulous. They're selling -- if they're selling 20, 30, 40 police uniforms and not asking where they're going, obviously, they're out to make a buck and not really caring about the safety and security of the public.

CAVUTO: Well, how do you know where your men and women are? The argument raised to ease concerns here is that even if they had worn those outfits, that local officials would have been aware of how many police they had in given areas and that they would have been able to track them down that way.

I'm not so sure.

HARTNETT: In the event of an attack, the chaos and confusion in an attack, it would be very difficult to find out who really are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

Post-9/11 in New York, we had police actually wearing their I.D. cards while they were in uniform in securing some high-profile sites here just to make sure that they were who they say they are. I.D. cards are a little harder to replicate than uniforms.

CAVUTO: This attack apparently involved a lot of people coming in disguise, looking like they're law enforcement officials, and then opening up. We have seen that before.

If you go way back, with the assassination of Anwar Sadat in Egypt, it was his own army that essentially turned on him. But having said that, I'm wondering how this changes the way authorities go about looking for bad guys.

HARTNETT: Obviously, their access control to their police buildings is going to be ratcheted up. Again, who is who in a uniform has to be looked at very carefully, I.D. cards, et cetera.

This -- this could have been an absolute tragedy for law enforcement, and, again, in the middle of an attack, who is who?

CAVUTO: The fact that they're still seeing uprisings in communities around the world where there are a high concentration of Muslim populations when they see these latest cartoons, that rage has not dissipated, and I'm wondering whether it's just a powder keg waiting to go off again.

HARTNETT: It looks like -- I'm hoping that it's a wakeup call for Europe, that many of these departments still most of their offices are unarmed.

I have relatives in policing in Ireland and Great Britain, and they're unarmed. I think they have to seriously look at that. Arm their police. Give their police the tools and training they need to fight these terrorists, because this is not going away.

CAVUTO: But even in Paris, as you know, Commissioner, they're very, very leery to go into these so-called no-go zones, not all the time, but enough of the time they figure the better part of valor is not to create waves of protests, some of which our own Rick Leventhal was reporting on, just with these cartoons.

HARTNETT: I think the see the folly of things like no-go zones.

We always kidded around in certain areas of New York that you don't go in there at certain times. It wasn't the policy. We went in when we had to go in. We always went in. I think they see the folly of a no-go zone and I think they have to really rethink that. I think France has 700-plus no- go zones. I think they are going to look long and hard throughout Europe at no-go zones.

CAVUTO: The argument here -- and you and I have gotten into this -- it couldn't happen here to the same degree because, A, our cops are armed, and that they would be ready in that event.

But all bets are off when you have might ask have some fake cops out there.

HARTNETT: We -- I have dealt with some fake cops in my career. They were more drug gangs and home invasion gangs.

CAVUTO: And what did you do? And how did you find them out?

HARTNETT: They -- we infiltrated them. We found them out. We set them up. We did stings on them. We did all kind of things to get them.

And they were some of the worst criminals I have ever encountered. Now you add impersonating cops as terrorists, it's a whole different ball game.

CAVUTO: Well, you would be aware of that because of your expertise. The average people on the street, if I were see something like this pop up in Times Square, I wouldn't be able to distinguish.

HARTNETT: If the uniform is good, and even if they can make a uniform -- it's not necessarily they're going to buy it anywhere.

If they get a good replica uniform, and if you add if they have police jargon and some basic knowledge of police procedures, they can do an awful lot of damage.

CAVUTO: And they would love to -- police reputations, which have been battered back and forth in this city in this whole racial war, they would love to stir that pot, wouldn't they?

HARTNETT: They sure would. And they are going to think that our attention is diverted towards all the demonstrations and the anti-police rhetoric. We better be ready.

CAVUTO: Yes, get our priorities right, as you say.

Ed Hartnett, thank you very, very much.

HARTNETT: Thank you, Neil.

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