PERB: Day 8 – January 7, 2008
FDNY Chief of Department Sal Cassano
Chief Cassano gave a brief description of the FDNY’s duties and responsibilities listing fire response, public safety, medical emergencies, disasters and terrorists acts as the Department’s primary responsibilities. According to Chief Cassano, the Department’s goal is to protect life and property in NYC. He testified that the Fire Department advances safety through fire prevention and education and that they contribute to the Homeland Security effort.
Significantly, and consistent with PBA witnesses’ testimony regarding the changing nature of the Firefighter job, of the 490,000 incidents that the FDNY responded to in 2006, only 28,000 involved structural fires, while 207,000 involved medical emergencies.
Apparently in response to PBA testimony about the complexities and difficulties of the police officer job, Cassano testified that that it is physically and mentally difficult to be a firefighter and that much is demanded of them. He stated that the FDNY training academy is 23 weeks long and includes the study of the chemistry of fires and hazardous materials and the danger to the public. He also stated that they study the characteristics of flammable liquids, solids and their extinguishing agents and the hazards they create for first responders and the environment.
In an attempt to liken Firefighters’ training and responsibilities with that of Police Officers with respect to antiterrorism training, without providing any detail about the number of hours that Firefighters receive, Cassano testified that Firefighters receive a course in Terrorism awareness which he said seeks to improve public safety by early recognition of terrorist events. However, Cassano was short on specifics and their involvement appeared to be limited to reporting suspicious incidents to the Fire Marshal and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, an then he admitted, law enforcement takes over.
The Fire Academy has also added a subway training course to train Fire Department personnel how to perform evacuations, pull electrical power, standpipe operations and how to establish communications in the subway tunnels. Additionally, they’ve added Incident Command training required to obtain grants from the Department of Homeland Security. After recent tragedies suffered by the department, building construction training to familiarize fire fighters with building codes particularly access and egress was undertaken. Students at the Fire Academy also have to become familiar with fire codes, HPD codes and other laws and codes.
According to Cassano, Trainees also get CFR-D and defibrillator first responder training. In Cassano’s opinion, it is particularly important because the FDNY responds to so many medical emergencies. There is also a domestic violence, child abuse aspect of the training so that firefighters can recognize the signs of these problems and make the appropriate notifications when it is spotted. Firefighters also get NYS peace officer training and are taught the authority and limitations of peace officer status and the role it plays in the criminal justice system. Additionally, they get fire prevention presentation training which is supposed to aid them in disseminating fire prevention information. Trainees are also familiarized with the department’s drug testing procedures; computer programs; basic Spanish for communicating as first responders in medical cases, fires and inspections. Firefighter trainees also take a “flash over” simulation course which concentrates on self-rescue.
Cassano also noted that this training is in addition to more traditional firefighter skills such a ladder operation, search and victim removal, rope training, forcible entry, use of basic engine tools, engine operation, such as use of large caliber streams and fire escape stretchers. The FDNY, the chief said, trains the most well rounded firefighters in the world and that hundreds of hours of additional training are required to join one of the department’s more elite units.
Buttressing the PBA’s point that the skills, training, and responsibilities of the police officer and firefighter jobs are entirely different and should not be compared, Chief Cassano described a typical work day of a firefighter pointing out the various jobs and types of equipment they use. The ladder company chauffeur drives a 30-ton rig and is responsible for the placement of a bucket or ladder at a fire scene in order to make a rescue or fight a fire. He stated that the roof firefighter’s job is to make his way to the roof in order to ventilate the fire and rescue victims. Apparently in an attempt to respond to PBA testimony that firefighters often work in teams with close supervision as opposed to police officers who often work alone, Cassano testified that a roof firefighter works without direct supervision. He also said that firefighters respond on a daily basis to electrical and gas emergencies as well as elevator and steam emergencies and any other problems they may be called upon to mitigate.
According to Cassano, in 1995, firefighters were trained as certified first responder – defibrillator (CFR-D). He noted that this is much more advanced than the first aid course he was given as a probie some 38 years ago. He testified that firefighters responded to over 207,000 medical emergencies for cardiac arrest, choking victims, anaphylactic shock, asthma attacks, drowning, seizures, extrications, unconscious persons, snake and spider bites, amputations, burns and electrocutions. He noted that they also deliver babies and respond to vehicle accidents where a pedestrian is struck. They must undergo refresher training every three years in order to maintain their certification. His testimony provided further evidence that the Firefighters’ job has been transformed and that they are performing more EMT related work than traditional firefighting responsibilities
The chief noted with considerable pride: “The job of a firefighter is certainly evolving from we just don’t put out fires; we do everything.” As examples, he testified that they clean equipment and check to ensure rescue equipment like air packs work properly. They also perform building inspections three times per week and must know the fire inspection manual. He noted how much the job had changed since he joined the FDNY.
Chief Cassano also spoke about the loss of 343 members of the department including most of the senior ranking officers in the FDNY resulting from the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Among those who survived, he explained, there is a high percentage of illness and a very high number of retirements. He said that it has taken a great deal of time for the department to recover from this tragedy.
In response to a question from the chairperson, Chief Cassano tried unsuccessfully to expand on the role of firefighters in fighting terrorism noting that the department of Homeland Security believed they would be in a good position to spot potential terrorist activities during building searches or emergency calls. Without providing any specifics, Cassano testified that Firefighters have been trained to spot suspicious activity and to report it to law enforcement immediately.
NYPD Chief of Department Joseph Esposito
Chief Esposito gave a brief recounting of his long career with the NYPD. In his current role, he controls the daily operations of the six major enforcement bureaus of the NYPD: patrol services; detective; transportation; housing; organized crime and transit. Along with others, he testified that he has developed new strategies and initiatives for fighting crime and improving the quality of life in NYC. He is one of two members who coordinate the weekly Compstat meetings. He testified that it is his opinion that the NYPD is one of the best and most effective police departments in the world and that he has the greatest respect for the men and women at all levels of the agency.
While he praised police officers on the one hand noting that Police officers are a critical component in fighting crime and terrorism the main thrust of his testimony was to convince the arbitrator that the police officers are not unique and that credit should be shared equally with all ranks including Civilian members of the Department.
Esposito echoed the incredible testimony of other City witnesses that the headcount reduction was planned and not the result of an inability to recruit and retain police officers. It was incredible testimony in that following the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD – the police Department responsible for protecting a city that had had twice been targeted by terrorists and remains the number one target in the world consciously decided to downsize the Department when most other Departments both locally and nationally were increasing the size of their police forces.
He boasted that Crime continues to be driven down despite fewer officers. He went on to testify that police officers were working harder and doing more with less, but attributed the success of the NYPD to using better strategies and initiatives touting management’s efforts to get the most from its police officers. Chief Esposito recounted the four pronged strategy employed by the NYPD saying they were: accurate and timely intelligence; effective tactics; rapid deployment: relentless follow up. These principles, he said, are followed at every level of the Department and in every bureau. He believes that “what gets measured gets done.”
Chief Esposito then discussed each of the four principles in greater detail. He said that those principles were applied by the highest ranking members of the department to the police officer in the street and if they were not, the system would fail. He noted that he was happy to report that with intense managerial oversight and supervision, the plan has worked and that the credit goes to everyone who has a role in making the process work “…from chiefs to supervisors to the police officers, including the civilian workers who many times are the first point of contact with the public, either by answering 911 calls or by taking information from a crime report.”
According to Esposito, the NYPD is setting a tone of intolerance of disorder by focusing on quality of life crimes like public drinking and aggressive panhandling. He cited the Times Square area as having turned around from a seedy, dangerous place to a tourist family vacation mecca. He said that the CompStat system is used to evaluate effectiveness at every level and to evaluate managers and that it will continue to do so. He also noted that the department’s continued success in fighting crime and disorder supports his belief in the high quality of new recruits. He also praised the experienced, veteran officers who offer a wealth of knowledge and experience. Echoing the City’s arguments in previous arbitrations that effective management is the reason for the NYPD’s success, he again stated that with proper management, the new recruits will grow to become as effective as the veteran officers.
Chief Esposito testified that the department is not static, that it is an ever changing organization that constantly refines its operations to meet ever changing challenges. He pointed to Operation Impact as one such innovation. He said that the department would identify areas of rising crime and flood it with new police officers right out of the academy which would result in significant reductions in crime. He noted that it is becoming more and more difficult to identify areas for Operation Impact because there are fewer and fewer areas where crime is increasing. The response is the implementation of Impact Response Teams (IRTs) where smaller teams of officers are dispatched to deal with hotspots of crime. They hit an area for about a month with fewer officers needed because the increase in crime is lesser.
Chief Esposito also stated that he believed that the PBA did not understand the management of Operation Impact and that concerns about smaller classes reducing the NYPD’s ability to fight crime were unfounded. He testified that with continuance of crime reduction there is less of a need for Operation Impact and that the IRTs attest to that fact. He noted that the real time crime center has revolutionized how the department responds to crime by giving patrol officers and detectives access to billions of pieces of data and information that helps them to fight crime. He said, “The real time crime center ahs and will continue to be an invaluable application of technology to law enforcement that will enable us to be even more effective in reducing crime and solving crimes.”
Chief Esposito testified to the ever-increasing anti-terror role the NYPD has undertaken citing Operations Hercules and Operation Atlas as examples. Hercules deploys special operations units like the bomb squad, emergency service unit and canine units to perform directed patrol to high profile locations. Atlas is coordinated at the borough level and deploys officers to likely terrorist targets.
Chief Esposito explained the impact that the 311-city service has had on the department’s work load. He said that while it has increased the number of calls for quality of life complaints, it is not a one to one ratio. He explained by using an example of a noise complaint regarding a club on a specific night. There may be a quantity of calls with the same complaint come in over time. He explained that if the noise complaint is for a Friday night crowd somewhere, the NYPD will respond but will have to wait for the next Friday night when the condition occurs again to take action. Apparently, he was attempting to point out that not every 311 call results in an officer being dispatched to a job.
He said in summary, that police officers perform traditional tasks but are now doing so as part of a team that offers clear direction, better intelligence, and effective leadership and with more support from specialists. “The NYPD is working harder than ever,” Chief Esposito said, “and we’re working smarter than ever.”
Under cross examination the Chief reiterated that the four step program is employed by every police officer and admitted that police officers have very little down time when on patrol. The Chief also stated that when he said the NYPD was doing more with less that by “less” he meant fewer police officers. He also admitted that the critical response vehicle program, Hercules, Atlas and Impact were all created during Commissioner Kelly’s tenure and that they are new programs in which police officers are involved. Undercutting the City’s assertions that the job of a New York City Police Officer has not “materially” changed during the contract period, he admitted that the additional work generated by 311 calls get added to the list of things that police officers have to get done during their tours.
Chief Esposito stated that he doesn’t get involved in budget matters but he did answer questions regarding the planned reduction in headcount of the NYPD. While he testified that the headcount was reduced intentionally, he could not recall specific numbers or years. He agreed that the department regularly losses veteran, experienced officers saying: “[t]he initial reduction was a result of the budget change, but additionally we have people leaving all the time.”
When asked about the need for increasing top pay for police officers he responded “I think all the salaries need to rise from the top to the bottom. I could use a raise.”
He agreed that, in the past, Operation Impact personnel were used to backfill precinct staffs when promotions or retirements took bodies away, but the Department had decided to hold on to the officers assigned to Operation Impact for an undecided period of time and therefore Precincts would not be getting replacement officers. He said that it may be a day, week a month or longer before they decide to release those resources to the precincts. He agreed that the Department would be assessing the ability of precincts to keep crime decreasing with fewer officers and that those that did would likely not receive officers from Impact. Those precincts, the Chief agreed, would have to work harder and smarter as they had in the past.
In a discussion of rescheduling days, the Chief agreed that, based on NYPD documents provided to him, that the Department was not using the rescheduling days.
The next hearing date is Tuesday,
January 8, 2008.