Jeh Johnson declares ‘I am a New Yorker' as he accepts Homeland Security nomination
Accepting President Obama's nomination to lead the Department of Homeland Security, Johnson, 56, recalled being present in Manhattan on 9/11 and wandering the streets that day thinking of what he could do. Johnson was the Defense Department's top lawyer from 2009 to 2012 — and an Obama fund-raiser in 2008, which some Republicans have taken issue with.
by Joseph Straw
WASHINGTON — As he accepted President Obama's nomination to head the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson had this message for America: “I am a New Yorker.”
Johnson, 56, made the declaration to explain his personal connection to the Sept. 11 attacks and why he accepted the nomination.
“I was present in Manhattan on 9/11 — which happens to be my birthday — when a day something like this was shattered by the largest terrorist attack on our homeland in history,” he said at a White House Rose Garden ceremony.
“I wandered the streets of New York that day and wondered and asked, ‘What can I do?'”
Johnson, who was the Defense Department's top lawyer from 2009 to 2012, said he was not seeking to return to public service, “but when I received the call, I could not refuse it."
Johnson was born in New York City and raised in the Dutchess County town of Wappingers Falls.
During his first stint in the Obama administration, he was one of the legal architects of the President's counterterrorism policies. Obama called him “an absolutely critical member of my national security team” who has a “deep understanding of the threats and challenges that face the United States.”
Some Republicans seized on Johnson's role as an Obama fund-raiser to question the selection. In 2008, Johnson gave $33,060 and raised another $65,060 for Obama's presidential bid, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
“Rather than selecting someone who knows the unique dynamics of our Southern border, President Obama has tapped one of his former New York fund-raisers,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said. “We need someone who knows how to secure the border, not dial for dollars.”
Former Senate homeland security aide Christian Beckner said Johnson's success helping to sell the change in Pentagon policy that allows gays to serve openly in the military bodes well for his management of DHS, and for his dealings with a public chafing at the department's policies.
“I can see why the President made the selection he did,” said Beckner, who now teaches at George Washington University.
Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y), former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he was less concerned with Johnson's political activity than his prior comments that the fight against terror should wind down.
“The tone of a number of speeches he's given was apologetic about American policies and not forceful enough,” King said. But he added that, “If he's confirmed I'll work with him as closely as I can for New York.”
King said he's hopeful that Johnson's New York roots means New York will maintain its share of counterterrorism aid, which grew under former Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The Columbia Law School grad, whose first name is pronounced “Jay,” once told the website Chambers Associate that in a second life he would work as a subway motorman, “preferably the #7 Flushing line.” He now works for the law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
Patrols up after recent shootings
More officers, some on bikes and on foot, out in Lowell neighborhoods
by Katie Lannan
LOWELL -- Looking out her window one night this week, Taya Dixon Mullane saw an unfamiliar sight: a police officer on a bicycle, patrolling the neighborhood.
"He was talking to two neighbors, which is something that doesn't happen all that often when there's an officer in a cruiser," said Dixon Mullane, chairwoman of the Lower Highlands Neighborhood Group. "I think that interaction is a great response by the police officer, to get out and talk to people. People are concerned about what's going on."
In the past week and a half, police responded to three separate instances of gunfire, twice at the same Powell Street address. Earlier this month, two 20-year-old men were shot on Salem Street, suffering serious injuries.
These recent incidents bring the total instances of shots fired in the city in the past six months to at least 15, resulting in nine injuries and the death of 25-year-old Keny Sien of Dracut.
The uptick in gun activity has neighborhood leaders calling for more community policing and increased visibility of officers, with the Police Department pledging to deliver.
"More boots on the ground, really, is what my neighborhood would want, and I would imagine other parts of the city do, too," Dixon Mullane said.
Ann Marie Page, president of the Citywide Neighborhood Council, said she wants to walk out of her front door and "fall over a cop," calling for more officers out at night and present at busy intersections and places where children are out walking around.
"We want people to come to Lowell and say, 'Wow, they've got a lot of police in Lowell. They're everywhere,'" Page said. "You want to make it uncomfortable for people to commit a crime. The message is, get out of town and pick another place."
The Lowell Police Department has refocused its personnel to allow for more patrols in certain locations, Interim Police Superintendent Deborah Friedl said.
"Some locations have been selected because they are densely populated, highly visible areas," Friedl said. "Some locations were target specifically because they're more hot spots right now. It's been sort of a dual approach."
Increased motor-vehicle enforcement is among the priorities, she said, because it gives a chance to catch criminals who are "driving around in cars, coming and going from target locations."
"We're coming at this from a whole bunch of levels and hoping for success," she said.
The department is also working with partner law-enforcement agencies, including the Middlesex District Attorney's Office, the state Attorney General's Office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Lowell will host its first gun buyback program on Nov. 2, offering money to residents who turn in unwanted firearms, which will then be destroyed.
"That's one more gun that's not going to get stolen in a housebreak or something like that and turn up in the hands of a criminal that's gonna use it in an illegal activity," Friedl said.
Friedl said that some of the city's current crime has its roots in the drug trade and the "active criminal involvement" of gang members who have been incarcerated and are now being released.
Nancy Judge, chairwoman of the Highlands Neighborhood Association, said she's not sure what more the Police Department could be doing to prevent gun crimes or other violent acts in the city, particularly when victims and others involved don't want to provide information out of a fear of retaliation.
"The police, their hands are tied," Judge said. "Are they supposed to just march up and down the streets forever and ever and ever? The shootings will just go to another street."
Pawtucketville Citizens Council President Deb Forgione said the Police Department needs to come up with a solid plan and redefine what the term "community policing" for the present day.
"Community policing was something we hung our hats on for years," Forgione said. "That really meant we knew who the police officer was driving down our streets at night and we could wave to them when we came home. Are we still doing that? What does community policing mean now?"
Forgione and other neighborhood leaders said that when community members have a chance to build a relationship with police officers, they can provide tips to potential crimes or other problems they notice around the neighborhood, before violence erupts.
"We have to work as team players," said Page. "It's all about prevention."