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Cover Story

Smooth Sailing in the Big Apple

More than a year in planning, the nine-day OpSail 2000 drew together several dozen police agencies and thousands of officers into one cohesive, effective security force.

October 01, 2000  |  by Shelly Feuer Domash

The NYPD command center opened 24 hours a day, several days before the event and continued through the nine days of celebration. It was staffed by numerous agencies from within the city, as well as other participating law enforcement agencies. Fourteen cameras provided instant pictures from around the city. Remote cameras gave those in the command center the opportunity to view any area or incident instantaneously.

Other command centers were located in New Jersey, other parts of Manhattan and inside New York Harbor.

Striving For Communication

During their preparation, the NYPD printed a booklet for its officers that listed all the important locations and telephone numbers in the city. The booklets were handed out so officers could be informed of these locations.

"We have officers coming in from different boroughs, and if some asks them a question, they might not know the answer. This way they will have the information available," Lt. Gabelman told POLICE, adding, "it is important not only to keep the public informed but the cops too."

"An informed officer is out most valuable tool," added Inspector McDermott.

He said his advice for any department who has to deal with a similar situation would be, "no matter how big or small, agencies should exchange ideas. Bigger does not mean better."

"Everyone has something to learn from someone else. Go in open-minded. There is always something to learn and ways to improve"

He added, "Law enforcement agencies should always visit other agencies. Go out and exchange ideas, interface."

"Planning is important," said Lt. Gabelman. "People from around the world have called us. They never had crowd control. We gave them the information."

He also stressed the importance of prior planning. "You have to bring all the people on board and establish your lines of communication. Every agency would bring information and exchange it. Each agency has a vast knowledge and expertise.

"I learned a lot from other agencies; things that I didn't know before and hopefully they gained the same kind of knowledge. Everyone worked together and each agency hopefully walked away with a better understanding of what other agencies do. The prior planning eliminated the duplication of effort and increased the assets of all the agencies, no matter what size. There were also personal contacts and personal ties made that can never be measured. It was dealing with these agencies on a personal level."

And perhaps the measure of their real success was not only that there were no major incidents, but even the sailors that came off the ships, according to Lt. Gabelman, loved New York. "They said they thought it was a cold-hearted place and after they spent time here they told us it was incredible, that they never felt so welcomed as in any other place in the world."

The members of the NYPD were proud of their success in policing OpSail 2000, but they have little time to bask in it. This month there will be a major United Nations meeting taking place that also required months of careful planning. Officials, assured of its success, still know when that is over, another challenge will be around the corner.

They are also confident that with the expertise they have gathered they can handle any event that may come along.

Shelly Feuer Domash, POLICE's, East Coast correspondent, is a freelance writer based in New York and a longtime, regular contributor to the magazine. Her most recent article for us was June 2000's cover story on "Youth Gangs in America."

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