WPCNR All News Final, By John F. Bailey, Filed 3/26/02, 11:15 PM EST: The Common Council reversed its decision to hire and fund the Center for Government Research to study the feasibility of splitting the police and fire departments Tuesday. Glen Hockley called for forming a citizen panel of White Plains residents, police officers and fireman, and outside law and fire experts to conduct an independent, unpaid study of how to reorganize the Public Safety function.
In a meeting that took less than 15 minutes, the Common Council bowed to Firefighters union request not to undertake the CGR study at this time.
When Common Council President Benjamin Boykin, Jr. asked if there was any discussion, Glen Hockley spoke up:
“After the dust settles from this,” Hockley addressed the Council, “I think it’s in the best interests of the city to hear from the Presidents of both of the unions (James Carrier of the White Plains Police Benevolent Association, and James Donahoe, of the White Plains Professional Firefighters), what their feelings are (about the organization of the departments). It is in the best interest of the public to split the departments.”
Hockley calls for “a volunteer Board of Citizens:”
Mr. Hockley expressed confidence in White Plains’ ability to determine the destiny of its police and fire services: “We have a great deal of expertise throughout our city and county, and in our own (police-fire) departments, who know best what’s in the best interests of our departments. We could save a bundle of money by looking inward. I will pursue it to revisit this.”
None of the other five councilpersons present (Rita Malmud, Robert Greer, Tom Roach, William King, and Benjamin Boykin) commented. With that Hockley comment, the ordinance and resolutions officially dooming the CGR study were passed 6-0.
WPCNR asked Councilwoman Rita Malmud, as she briskly walked down the circular staircase to her car, nonstop, if she would consider splitting the police fire departments asunder without a study. Mrs. Malmud said, “You cannot do a study without cooperation. Further study is needed, I still want a professional, independent study.”
Malmud said the Firefighters union was not going to cooperate, and that was why she voted against the study she had approved.
WPCNR asked, since the city is empowered to require employee cooperation with department initiatives, why the study could not have been done anyway. Malmud questioned the validity of the study without the firefighters’ endorsement of the study and the conclusions that would be reached as a result.
King suggests they not hire a Public Safety Commissioner and save money.
William King said, “We have to look at whole budget. We’re under some budget pressures. By not hiring a new Commissioner of Public Safety, and a new deputy Commissioner we can save $300,000. It might be that having a Public Safety Commissioner is a luxury we cannot afford any more.”
King, who had voted against the study on March 15 when the council voted to hire CGR, 5-1, said he had suggested to Mayor Joseph Delfino, that an independent consultant who has major police experience like William Bratton (the former New York City Police Commissioner), or a retired NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, (now again the Police Commissioner under the Bloomberg Administration, be hired to examine the White Plains police and fire operations as an alternative, and the Mayor rejected it.
Roach sees the study kill as a missed opportunity.
Roach said he wanted the ramifications of a police fire split “looked at, because it’s a major change in the way we operate, in an efficient manner. I’m disappointed we’re not going to do that, because this was a great opportunity to take a look at this.”
Hockley expounds on his favoring a Police Fire Split. Boykin stands firm: no study in near term.
Mr. Hockley, holding court on City Hall’s circular staircase talked animatedly about how, in his opinion, the police should run the police, and the firemen should run the fire department, with each “Chief” reporting to the Mayor.
Mr. Boykin listened, and when asked about Mr. Hockley’s initiative to form an ad hoc citizen-professionals committee, Mr. Boykin said, he was “not willing to entertain a study in the near term.”
Hockley draws on his discussions with the unions.
Hockley said he has had extensive talks with the police and fire union leaders, and as a result, is convinced the departments could run better, if separated.
He questioned the need for Deputy Commissioners, saying the department hierarchies could be consolidated under one Commissioner each, saving the salaries of both Deputy Commissioner and the Assistant Commissioner, and we presume, the Commissioner of Public Safety. He sees both Police Chief and Fire Chief reporting to the Mayor directly.
Hockley’s thoughts on Fire Department.
Hockley said the Fire Department feels it needs autonomy, from his understanding, so they would have a Commissioner who would “speak out for them (the men),” and be behind them and the firemens’ interests, an advocate. Hockley said the firemen had told him that “we have obsolete equipment, (mentioning the “Gated Y” complaint), that they do not get the latest best equipment, but the cheapest.”
Jim Donohoe and WPCNR miss connections
Jim Donohoe, head of the firefighters union, has been trying to reach WPCNR. We have received at least one message from Mr. Donohoe, and hope to speak with the firefighters President on Wednesday.