After mounting pressure, the mayor’s office last week released a 133-page report on the city’s emergency response protocols, which says that the 9-1-1 system struggles with inefficiencies, errors, and delays.
Questioned about the findings and recommendations of the consultant’s report yesterday afternoon, Mayor Bloomberg said that the city’s record of responding to emergencies is better than ever and that his administration takes the report seriously.
That doesn’t, however, mean he actually read it.
Pushed on some of the specifics of the 9-1-1 report at a press conference on the set of Saturday Night Live, Bloomberg ultimately blurted out, “I didn’t even bother to read it!” as his press secretary tried to move along the news conference to a different question.
The Voice asked the mayor whether the city planned on following up on the report called the “9-1-1 Call Processing Review,” which was written by a Virginia-based consulting company and was originally commissioned by Bloomberg after the city struggled with its response to the 2010 blizzard.
“Keep in mind, this is all stirred up by one union who isn’t happy because another union is taking their business,” the mayor said. “So let’s put it in perspective and maybe, hopefully some of the journalists will start to look and see where it comes from.”
The city has fought to keep the report private since the New York Post first blew up the story last month. The mayor, who has faced a legal battle as a result of his unwillingness to release the report, repeatedly said that he would not give it out until it was “final.” On Friday, his office did release an abridged version of the report, but only in hard copy form at City Hall (thanks to Capital New York, it’s now online here).*
Yesterday, Bloomberg said that this is all about a union dispute and that the city has reformed its emergency system and is doing better than ever (in court, the Uniformed Firefighters Association has been pushing for the release of earlier drafts).
“What is clear is that deaths from fire have fallen dramatically. It’s the lowest they’ve ever been. The murder rate keeps going down. So far, we are on our ways to set a big record,” Bloomberg said, mentioning stop-and-frisk as one successful tactic. “But also, ambulances arrive quicker, and so if you get shot, you are much more likely to survive. That’s another reason the murder rate goes down. That’s all built into this dispatch system.”
Bloomberg explained that under the new system, the city’s fire and police agencies work together, so that 9-1-1 calls with fire needs transfer to a conference call and dispatch immediately, as opposed to the previous system where a call to 9-1-1 might be sent over to a fire dispatcher who would get the same information again before dispatching.
“The fact of the matter is that response times by a consistent standard of measurement are better than they’ve ever been, and you see that in the higher life expectancies,” Bloomberg said. “What’s really happening here is that, getting two agencies — police and fire — with an enormous history of pride and a belief that they can do everything, getting them to work together, was one of the great accomplishments here.”
Still, Bloomberg said, the city is not ignoring the report’s recommendations. “The report has some things and we’re looking at every one of them…Some of the things are valid. Some of the things are things you’d like to do someday if you can get to it. Some of the things perhaps we can do right now. We take it very seriously.”
Pressed further about specific findings in the report that the city was using incorrect data, Bloomberg dismissed the criticisms in a rambling response, reiterating that the city is doing a better job, and adding, “They can make up anything they want to say…there’s no way to know what they’re talking about or where they come to that conclusion. There’s always going to be some disgruntled people that say it should’ve been done this way, it should’ve been done that way.”
The reporter responded, “So it sounds like you’re saying some of the information in the report was incorrect.”
“I didn’t say that, I didn’t even bother to read it!” Bloomberg interjected. “So, I can’t tell you that. I just tell you in all these things, where you stand depends on where you sit, and if you want to think that things are good, you can come up with numbers to say it. If you want to think things are bad, that’s fine. I don’t want to get involved in another union dispute.”
He added, “You are safer than ever before no matter what you want to write.”
After the conference, Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser tried to clarify some of the confusion with reporters, saying that the report is flawed because it attempts to compare an old process where fire and police worked more separately to a new one where they are integrated.
“You can’t do an apples-to-apples comparison, because we have a system that used to have two apples that we’ve taken to one apple,” he said. “They’re not the same system… You can’t actually compare them perfectly because you’ve changed it.”
* The 133-page report released by the mayor’s office differs from the 216-page length that the Post originally reported, which is why news outlets have been referring to this as an edited or abridged version. The mayor’s office maintains that this is a final version of the consultant’s report, which came from thousands of pages of information. The mayor’s office says it has not seen any 216-page version and that it did not remove material for the document released last week — rather this is just the final product that came from the consultant.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 9, 2012