Ma. Cites Security Gaps; Co. Antiterror Prep Urged

Print

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Massachusetts towns and cities have collectively shed 945 police officers and 798 firefighters because of layoffs or attrition. The Boston Globe says that 83 percent of police chiefs and 92 percent of fire chiefs say their departments are unprepared for a terror attack, reports a survey by a state Senate committee.

“This confirms our worst fears — the loss of 1,700 first responders to any terrorist attack or other major disaster,” said state Senator Marc R. Pacheco, chairman of the Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee. “These are the voices of the frontline responders, the police chiefs and fire chiefs, saying they don’t have the resources they need.”

Pacheco, a Democrat, blamed deep cuts in the amount of state money distributed to cities and towns for what he calculated to be a 5 percent drop statewide in the number of public safety officers in three years. He said Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, insisted on those cuts while glossing over the impact on public safety preparedness. “Quite frankly, we have received misinformation from the administration on this issue,” he said. “We’ve been told the level of staffing is adequate. Wrong. Our survey tells us that.”

State Public Safety Secretary Edward A. Flynn said he was busy trying to stretch existing personnel to do a better job. “I don’t blame the local police and fire chiefs for their concerns,” he said. “Attrition is taking its toll. Nationwide, attrition is a problem, and there is a great deal of discussion about it on the national level. What I am trying to do is to compensate for the attrition with a shift in the way to do business.”

In Denver, former Sen. Gary Hart told a City Council Committee that Denver could be a target for a major terrorist attack, and local officials should tell the public whether emergency services are prepared, says the Denver Post. Hart said terrorists are just as likely to target Denver, Cleveland, or Dallas as they would larger cities. Hart was co-chairman of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, which predicted in early 2001 that there would be a terrorist attack such as the one that occurred on Sept. 11 that year.

Hart advised the council committee to ensure that the police and firefighters can communicate with other area agencies by radio. He urged the council to investigate the adequacy of the area’s hazardous-materials resources and to check on the availability of the Colorado National Guard. Most Guard personnel likely are in Iraq, he said. “This city has a wonderful chance to be the modern example for homeland security,” Hart said.

Denver safety officials described their departments as doing as much as they can. “I can only say that we are getting there. We are planning to be prepared,” Manager of Safety Al LaCabe said. “I think we are ahead of other metropolitan districts in the way we are going about getting there and cooperating with other districts.” The federal Denver Urban Area Security Initiative has spent $12.3 million last year and $6.9 million this year for emergency-services training related to massive attacks. Training on weapons of mass destruction and terrorism preparedness is set for September.

Link: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2004/05/13/1st_responder_shortage_cited/

Comments are closed.