What really sets the NYPD apart is the performance of the Intelligence Division, which has about 600 people in it. Remember, this is a police force with, relatively speaking, enormous resources: about 35,000 officers and another 17,000 civilian employees. And it increasingly reflects the diversity of New York City, where 40 percent of the population of 8.5 million was not born in the United States of America.
By identifying and testing officers already on the force in 2002, the NYPD was immediately able to utilize hundreds of cops who spoke languages relevant to terrorist investigations – Arabic, Dari, Farsi and so on – and who already were on the force. The intelligence division got many of the most talented of these, and in a matter of months had about twice as many Arabic speakers as the FBI. The ones at the NYPD, moreover, were mostly native speakers.
This became a tremendous advantage in undercover work, in liaising with local communities, and for intelligence gathering on the Web. (Federal agencies, by contrast, require security clearances and background checks that are almost impossible to get for would-be employes who were born overseas.)