New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to define roles of the Police and Fire Departments at emergencies will cause more problems than it solves, fire union officials, City Council members, and a public safety analyst said yesterday, reports the New York Times. At a hearing of two council committees, complaints centered on the Police Department’s primacy in responding to emergencies involving hazardous materials–a function long the domain of the Fire Department. New York would be the only major city that gives primary responsibility to the police, council members and union officials said.
Stephen Cassidy, United Firefighters Association president, and Daniel Nigro, a former Fire Department official, suggested that the plan was flawed because it did not provide for a single overall incident commander in many instances, instead calling for several agency heads to work together in making decisions. Prof. Glenn Corbett of John Jay College of Criminal Justice testified that the new protocols complicated an already inefficient system in which the Police and Fire Departments do many of the same jobs. “Instead of taking a giant leap forward through correcting longstanding major flaws in New York City’s emergency response protocols,” he said, the plan “takes several steps backward.”