The commissioners of the New York City Police and Fire Departments said
yesterday that for the first time they would exchange liaison officers and
carry out specialized training together. The moves, they said, are intended
to improve communications between the two agencies, but may also ease the
tensions that have long divided some of their members.
The effort by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Nicholas
Scoppetta, the fire commissioner, was prompted in part by miscues after
Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, officials said. Mayor Michael
Bloomberg is expected to announce the new arrangement next week.
As part of the plan, the Police Department will also begin to take senior
Fire Department operations officials on orientation flights in police
helicopters next week so they can eventually use them to better observe
major fires and other incidents, officials said.
"We are the two biggest emergency response entities and we need to be
able to talk on an ongoing basis on a whole myriad of issues," Mr. Kelly
said. "I think it's now time, post-9/11, to leave whatever rivalries there
are on the ice or on the football field," he added, referring to the annual
hockey and football matches between the departments. "We've just got simply
to work more closely, simply for the benefit of the people of the city."
Mr. Scoppetta, who noted that he and Mr. Kelly meet frequently, said
with the city facing new challenges and possibly more attacks
the agencies understood that they must dispense with trivial rivalries.
we didn't know it before 9/11, we certainly know it now," he said.
The effort to improve coordination between the departments is intended
some measure to address communications failures that became apparent during
the response to the Sept. 11 attack.
For example, Battalion Chief Joseph Pfeifer, who was directing fire
operations from the lobby of the north tower, has told supervisors that
had trouble discerning the movement of fire across the upper floors, even
though police helicopters were circling the building. But the helicopters'
observations were not heard on the fire department's radio system because
was carried on a different frequency.
But the lack of coordination between the agencies extends beyond that
event. In fact, for decades, members of the two departments have at times
bumped heads at emergency scenes, squabbling over jurisdiction and carping
about each other's ability to perform various rescue operations. Indeed,
disputes have been so numerous that the phrase the Battle of the Badges
coined to describe them.
Mr. Scoppetta said that under the new plan, a Police Department captain
or deputy inspector would be assigned to his agency's headquarters and given
direct access to the chiefs of department and operations, and that a Fire
Department battalion chief would be assigned to 1 Police Plaza with access
to the highest uniformed official.