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Egos stand in way of cooperation

Out on a LimbRoss L. TalbottGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

For several years we had a Garfield County Incident Management Group, or IMG. The group was composed of police and fire department leadership. The idea was to try to anticipate disastrous incidents that might occur in the county, and to have a team that had all necessary resources at its disposal. In addition, it embodied the best authority and skills available to deal with the anticipated crises.Another aspect was to build a real sense of cooperation between the departments in Garfield County.Under the tutelage of Guy Meyer, we reviewed all sorts of incidents that had happened and did a critical analysis of the successes and failures.Then we did tabletop exercises to practice response and analyze resources.Trying to anticipate all the “What Ifs” in our area was challenging. It was also rather alarming to realize the disaster potential in our county.Did you ever try to think what we would do if Amtrak hit a big rockslide in Glenwood Canyon during high water in the Colorado River? How would you rescue passengers? How would you get equipment into the area? What impact would it have on rail service nation-wide? What if it took out the power lines?Consider the potential if the inaccessible train wreck contained hazardous chemicals which were spilled into the river. What if the chemicals were airborne? The changeable canyon winds could create a real problem.The IMG created all possible scenarios possible in our area from raging wildfires, landslides, dam bursts and earthquakes, and developed a response plan.Unfortunately, somewhere along the line the whole thing was abandoned and the Incident Management Group disappeared.As nearly as I can determine, the problem was departmental egos. It is far too common for police and fire departments to become very territorial. The practice is to set up command and then call other departments to come in and be under that command. The IMG was seeking a high level of cooperation, and command responsibility was not clear.With most of these departments, the chief’s ego is tied to the size of the station, the size of the budget, the number of employees and staff, and the amount of equipment they command.”Over-response” is an indicator of this display. For instance, a heart attack will commonly draw two ambulances, three sheriff’s deputies and a couple of fire trucks.Even a volunteer can put on the uniform and suddenly go on a power trip.In our society and culture, these people need to remember that, No. 1, they are the employees and servants of the electorate; and No. 2, we the people paid for all that neat authoritative stuff.There needs to be open accountability for the way our money is spent. Taxes are too high now. All so-called government money comes from we the people, no matter how it’s disguised. Call it a grant or an allocation or whatever, it’s still our money.Also, there needs to be open justification by these departments and agencies. Convince us that what you are spending our money for is what is really needed.In all of the scenarios we considered on the IMG, we never came up with the need for a SWAT team or an armored car with a 50-caliber rotating turret.Doesn’t Sheriff Vallario owe it to the electorate, for whom he works, to convince us that there is a justifiable crisis looming that requires this team and equipment and the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of our dollars?So far, the SWAT team’s performance is not only questionable, but frightening.I’m calling it a power trip until someone proves different.Ross L. Talbott lives in New Castle.


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