On Tuesday, threats of violence were called into the two largest school districts in the nation — New York and Los Angeles.
The threats referenced bombs, assault rifles, and Allah. But the districts, which received nearly identical threats, diverged on their responses.
Los Angeles responded by closing every school in the district, while New York assessed the threat and found it to be “non credible.” The threat has since been deemed a hoax by LA, as well.
More information is emerging about why the two districts reacted so differently to the same threat. Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Chief Charlie Beck was concerned with the “very broad … but also very specific” nature of the threat, The Los Angeles Times reported. The threat named every Los Angeles United School District ( LAUSD) school and said that explosives had already been planted, according to Beck.
LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines echoed the point about the broad nature of the threat affecting the decision. “It was not to one school, two schools or three schools — it was many schools, not specifically identified,” Cortines said, according to The New York Times.
Beck also mentioned the email seemed credible due to the way it was written. “It was also in very good English — which is not a good sign,” he said. “Most of the hoaxes that I see … have syntax errors, a lot of incomplete sentences, non-sequiturs. So that concerned me.”
But New York, whose email was identical to LA’s except for the name of the city and number of people participating in the terrorism threat, did not see those aspects as meaningful.
New York Police Department (NYPD) Police Commissioner William Bratton said the email had questionable errors, noting that “Allah” was never capitalised in the multiple times it appeared.
Bratton also “suggested that the writer might have been inspired by recent episodes of ‘Homeland,’ with its plotline of a sarin gas attack on Berlin,” according to The Times.
The differing response to the threat has led to some public sniping between the two districts.
“I would say this to people that are critical … It is very easy to criticise a decision when you have no responsibility for the outcome of that decision,” Beck said. “All of us make tough choices. All of us have the same goal in mind … Southern California has been through a lot in recent weeks. Should we risk putting our children through the same?”
His words are seemingly pointed response to Bratton’s criticism of LA’s response to the threat.
“It’s what they (terrorists) want, whether it’s a prankster or a terrorist, they want to instill fear,” Bratton said, according to The New York Daily News.
“To disrupt the daily school schedules of half a million school children, their parents, daycare, buses, based on an anonymous email with no consultation, if in fact consultation did not occur with law enforcement authorities, I think it was a significant overreaction,” added Bratton, who was police commissioner of the LAPD from 2002 to 2009.
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