NEW YORK — The New York Police Department could take down a plane if necessary, Commissioner Ray Kelly said Sunday, describing the counter-terror measures he implemented after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Kelly decided the city couldn't rely on the federal government alone after the attacks, he told CBS' "60 Minutes".
And so he set about creating the NYPD's own counter-terrorism unit, which is prepared for multiple scenarios and could even take down a plane, he said.
"I knew that we had to supplement, buttress our defenses of this city," Kelly told "60 Minutes".
"We couldn't rely on the federal government alone. I believed that we had to create our own counter-terrorism capacity, indeed our own counter-terrorism division. And, that plan was put into effect fairly rapidly," he added.
Kelly didn't divulge details about the NYPD's ability to take down a plane but said "obviously this would be in a very extreme situation."
Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne later added that "NYPD Aviation has weapons that could be deployed with that capability," the New York Post reported Monday.
Police sources told The Post that Kelly and Browne were referring to Barrett .50 caliber rifles that can be mounted on most police helicopters. The bullets can rip through cockpit glass as well as fuselage, and their force has been compared to that of a bazooka.
The rifles are stored in an NYPD safe and are deployed only for "special occasions," such as when the president is in town, the sources added.
Other law-enforcement sources told NBC News that a third crew member joins the helicopter pilot and copilot to operate the rifle. Attached to a sling and with a side door on the chopper open, the weapon can be used to disable a boat or a small aircraft, the sources said.
The idea for this added layer of security came amid the earlier threat that Al-Qaida might use small aircraft such as crop dusters to spread chemical or biological weapons.
The NYPD would not try to intercept an airliner, the sources added, noting that responsibility for that lies with the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD.
"Each state and city has the right to execute law enforcement responsibilities, while NORAD remains responsible for defending the United States and Canada from air threats that are considered an attack on our Nations," NORAD spokesman James Graybeal told NBC News.
The Coast Guard and military have helicopters equipped with similar weaponry. NYPD officers train with the .50 caliber on the ground at ranges and have conducted exercises in their choppers at Fort Dix and other bases, the sources said.
NYPD's acquisition of the rifles was first announced in 2005.
Kelly also told "60 Minutes" that the NYPD has intelligence officers stationed in cities around the world, including Abu Dhabi, Amman, Montreal, Toronto, Singapore and Paris.
"They're there to act as trip wires or listening posts" he said. "Is there anything going on there that (as I say) can help us better protect the city."
The NYPD also uses radiation detectors and has created a network of surveillance cameras in Manhattan to track threats.Story: 9/11 memorial plaza in NYC opens to the public
To help foster a closer relationship with the local community, the NYPD has created a cricket league for city kids.
"Back in the old days, we played baseball, basketball with the kids," NYPD Inspector Amin Kasseim told "60 Minutes".
"But as we have these new immigrant communities coming from overseas, we have to find the sports that they love, that they genuinely love," he added.
NBC's Jonathan Dienst and The Associated Press contributed to this report.