Yesterday, Fire Department Chief Peter Hayden testified in front of the City Council and said that the current plan to have the NYPD lead any emergency situation, including the handling of hazardous materials, is "bad policy" and "makes no sense." Chief Hayden's actions have been described as "startling frank" by the NY Times and a "rare move" by the NY Post, as it's unusual for such a high-ranking official to disagree openly with City Hall policy and criticize the another powerful department (Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta was quiet and said he was essentially going to follow the mayor's wishes). In fact, Chief Hayden commented about the NYPD's desire to keep power:
"There is a human behavior element here, where people don't want to share information because information is viewed as power. We see it in every level of government. The C.I.A. does not tell the F.B.I. The F.B.I. does not tell the N.Y.P.D. The N.Y.P.D. does not tell the F.D.N.Y. This is human behavior."
The NY Post's analysis seems to back up the idea that Police Commissioner Kelly's clout is what has elevated the NYPD's role, and that even one emergency management chief calls him the "co-mayor." Other things Gothamist found interesting: Chief Hayden made it a point to say he owed it to the lives of firefighters lost in September 11 to speak up and that he hoped his words wouldn't damage his relationship with Mayor Bloomberg (the NY Times reports Hayden delicately saying that the Mayor was "ill-advised"), and that Police Commissioner Kelly got irritated at almost always irritating City Council Speaker (and Democratic mayoral hopeful) Gifford Miller.
The FDNY would like to share the leadership with the NYPD in these situations, but Gothamist thinks the cynics' viewpoint that they can't really share is probably right, as sad as it is. The funny thing is that when there's hazardous material suspected, it seems like the FDNY is the one to deal with it. It's doubtful much will change, but this might become an election issue.
Photographs taken by Jake Dobkin in July 2003, when anthrax was suspected downtown