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Police commissioner: Agencies must work together for home defense

Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney
Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney  

(CNN) -- President Bush has tapped Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge to be the director of the newly created Office of Homeland Security, responsible for coordinating and creating a strategic plan for homeland defense. Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney is one of the names that has come up to be Ridge's top aide when he takes office October 8.

CNN anchor Paula Zahn spoke to Timoney on Wednesday.

CNN: So have you accepted this job yet?

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TIMONEY: The job's not been offered. I have not been in contact with the governor. But at the present, the governor has chosen -- I know the governor, and he's definitely chosen the right guy.

CNN: So wait, are you telling me this morning you haven't had any talks with anyone about this potential position?

TIMONEY: I have not spoken to anybody regarding this position.

CNN: But you certainly know in every newspaper account across the country you are considered to be tapped for the job. Can you admit to being flattered by that?

TIMONEY: Yes, thank you very much.

CNN: OK. Let me ask you this, if this job comes to fruition ...


CNN: ... what is it that you would want to contribute?

TIMONEY: In [Wednesday's] Philadelphia Inquirer there's an op-ed opinion that I wrote with regard to what I think should be done. The whole idea of coordinating the federal law enforcement agencies, for example -- it's tough enough in a big city police department like Philadelphia or New York to coordinate the units that are under your direct control. ... You need something like that at the national level where all the agencies -- and there are anywhere from 40 to 60 federal agencies -- should be working hand in hand.

It's extremely difficult. You have turf battles, egos involved, a whole host of things. There's actually different Cabinet departments. And so it's going to take a person with unique skills like the governor to pull those disparate units, pull them together. Not that you're going to run day-to-day operations but kind of force units to work closer.

You know, there's a joke [a friend] from New York used to say: The biggest lie in law enforcement is that we work well together. The fact is we don't. But we need to, you know? I think that the president is absolutely correct. This is a war. It's a different type of war. And so we've got to leave our egos at the door and go in and work hand in hand.

And I think there's also a big role for local law enforcement. You know, there are 20,000 police departments across America, hundreds of thousands of police officers that can be utilized in this war. We have close contacts with the immigrant communities, particularly in the large cities. Those are sources of information.

CNN: Well, you raise an interesting point, commissioner, the issue of skills is one thing. But there are people like [U.S. Sen.] John McCain who say unless you give Gov. Ridge broad powers to do what you've just said, which is basically try to control and integrate you know the policies of some 45 agencies, this thing isn't going to work. Are you concerned about that?

TIMONEY: Well, I think there's a variety of ways of getting at that. ... I also think some kind of, if not control, then influence over the budget, whether an agency gets a certain amount or doesn't get it, if one's more cooperative than another. ... I don't think you need to control the budget or day-to-day operations. But I think there are ways of getting, you know, the mission accomplished.

CNN: One last question for you about the issue of leaving and checking egos at the door. What will be the toughest challenge for Gov. Ridge in that regard?

TIMONEY: Well, I mean there are agencies within the federal government and also local governments -- I'm not just picking on the federal government agencies -- that are used to going it alone, that feel that their mission -- they're the best -- in the best position to accomplish their mission. That's true. However, I think this is a time now that we need much better coordination, integration of the various agencies, particularly at the federal level, but also state and local.

CNN: Well, we will be following all the speculation about your potential future. We'd love for you to come back when you can talk about it and confirm it for us.

TIMONEY: I appreciate it. Thank you very much.


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