NEW YORK- Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants the New York Police Department to take control of the city's bridges, tunnels and airports during disasters, saying Thursday the current multi-agency command structure is "backward."
Bloomberg said the NYPD is "the agency generally recognized as the most sophisticated counterterrorism force in the world," and should be calling the shots if a catastrophe strikes any of those targets.
The airports, bridges, tunnels, ports and railways leading into the city are now managed by a web of transit and law enforcement agencies, including the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Port Authority Police Department.
Any number of roadblocks could be thrown at the mayor's plan.
The city already is plagued by a long-standing battle between the police and fire departments over who should manage emergency response. And the Port Authority and the MTA are run by boards with members nominated from various directions, including the New York and New Jersey governors.
Bloomberg also wants the police commissioner to have a seat on the MTA and Port Authority boards to give the NYPD a voice in security planning at those agencies.
Spokeswomen for New York Gov. George Pataki and New Jersey Gov. Richard Codey said the governors were interested in reviewing the details, but declined to comment further.
The Port Authority's police union dismissed the plan as "election-year rhetoric," while the MTA said it would consider the proposal.
The overhaul was part of Bloomberg's first policy proposal for his campaign for a second term. He was joined by Thomas Kean, the former chairman of the Sept. 11 commission, to announce the plan.
Kean said Bloomberg's idea addresses the commission's chief complaints about the response to the attacks four years ago: breakdown of command and communication.
Since the World Trade Center attack, the NYPD - which has nearly 37,000 officers and is the nation's largest police department - has honed its homeland security strategy, redeploying about 1,000 officers to counterterrorism duty.
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