In Nassau County on Long Island (NY) this morning, James Allen, Chief of the North Merrick Fire Department, was issued a citation by a New York State Trooper. The Chief was making an attempt to close the southbound right-hand lane because of a crash in the center lane on the Meadowbrook State Parkway around 0900 today. The Chief was leaving one lane open for traffic to keep moving, but wanted the accident lane and one other lane closed for safety.
It wasn’t safe. The weather this morning was not good (wet, snowy, icy) and cars were slipping and sliding all over the place. We had a crash victim and I was just trying to make it as safe as possible. I have to keep my personnel safe too,Allen said.
It should be noted that NY State just passed the Ambrose-Searles Move Over Act. It’s named after a NY State Trooper and an Onondaga County Sheriff’s deputy, who were both killed in the Line of Duty while their patrol cars were stopped along the side of the road. New York is one of the last states to enact a Move Over Law.
Chief Allen explained that the Trooper did not want him to close the right lane of the parkway, insisting that he allow both the right and left lanes to handle the flow of traffic-with responders operating in the middle. When Chief Allen disagreed, (because of his concern about personnel operating in an "island" without any side protection), the officer threatened to have him arrested. Instead, the incident ended with the State Trooper issuing the Chief a citation.
According to the Chief, the incident involved a car that had spun around and was northbound in the south bound center lane. The Trooper pulled up first and put his truck (SUV) behind the accident in the center lane. The Chief, arriving moments later, put his SUV in the right lane, so now the right and center lane was blocked and they kept the left lane for traffic to keep moving. The Trooper sternly wanted the Chief to open up the right lane and let traffic go in both the left and right lane and have the Firefighters, EMT’s (and the police) work in the center lane.
Chief Allen told the Trooper he was not moving his Chiefs truck for the safety of his department members, the patient and for the police. The Trooper didn’t like that idea and told the chief that if he don’t move the vehicle, he was going to arrest him. The chief responded "I guess that’s what you are going to do because I am not moving my truck".
Chief Allen has been a firefighter for 23 years and a chief officer for 5 years and there has never been a problem previously. The parkways are shut down or partially shut down regularly-as a matter of safety for all operating. Chief Allen called the Nassau County Fire Communications Center (Firecom) for a state police supervisor to respond, who never showed up. The end result was that the trooper gave the chief a ticket for failing to comply with a lawful order.
The chief has a call into the area state police supervisor to ask him if this is the way they are going to work with us? If so, the chief has stated that the North Merrick FD, as long as he is Chief of Department, will not respond to a call on the parkway because the safety of his members is first.
As of January 1, (as noted above, with video) there is a new NY State law in effect that says that all cars have to move over a lane when they see an emergency vehicle. Now, in this case, no one could move over because the accident was in the center lane, but I had to make the scene secure,Chief Allen stated.
Chief Allen clearly "gets it"- we just don’t understand why the Trooper doesn’t, or at least didn’t. This, especially after his own agency (NY State Police) worked to pass the new law. NYS Police are also on the forefront nationally on scene/traffic management, warning light use and color and related safety initiatives.