Wait, Which Emergency Plan?

Categories: Fact Check
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If the NYPD takes charge in an emergency, will the MTA's robots obey? (MTA)

In his first major discussion of plans for a second term, Mayor Bloomberg on Thursday outlined a new "vision" for public safety that included a call for New York cops to be given "command and control" over MTA and Port Authority police "if a disaster strikes critical transportation infrastructure within New York City (bridges, tunnels, train stations, ports and airports)."

For that to happen would require the approval of Gov. Pataki, who controls the MTA, and Gov. Codey of New Jersey, who along with Pataki controls the Port Authority. And it would mean overcoming the argument, as the Daily News reported, that MTA and PA cops know their territory better than their NYPD counterparts. Leaving those obstacles aside, don't we already have an emergency plan in place?

For months there has been controversy over Bloomberg's Citywide Incident Management System, a set of protocols that establishes who is in charge at different kinds of emergencies, from a nuclear incident to a downed tree. Some FDNY officials were miffed that the NYPD was put in overall charge at Haz-Mat events. The CIMS states that at an "aviation incident"—such as might occur at one of the airports run by the Port Authority—the cops, firefighters, and Port Authority would be part of a "unified command structure." At a "rail incident," like what we might see on the Metro North or PATH lines, the cops and firefighters share command. The MTA isn't mentioned in the May 2004 City Hall announcement describing the CIMS.

So how does the mayor's "new vision" of this week square with the CIMS he put out last year? The idea is that CIMS addresses how to coordinate among different agencies, while the new plan would—after some yet-to-be-determined triggering event—actually unify MTA and PA cops under NYPD officers. Effectively, there wouldn't be three separate agencies, there'd be one. Maybe that's how the cops and firefighters should work it, too. Hmmm. Unlikely.

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