NEW YORK — Sen. Charles Schumer said that the stampede that injured 16 people at New York’s Penn Station just over a week ago shows a need for better coordination between law enforcement agencies at transportation hubs.
The New York Democrat on Sunday called for rail security improvements including the establishment of a joint command at Penn Station so law enforcers can communicate with each other better.
“The next Penn panic could be an actual disaster, not just a wake-up call,” Schumer said.
The stampede erupted on April 14 following false reports of gunshots at the station, which was even more crowded than usual because of a New Jersey Transit train that was stuck in a tunnel under the Hudson River for nearly three hours.
The gunshot rumors were triggered by an Amtrak police officer’s use of a stun gun to subdue a disruptive man.
An Amtrak spokesman said afterward that the use of the stun gun was consistent with departmental policy allowing officers to subdue a potentially violent person.
Schumer compared the panic that ensued to a stampede last August at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, which similarly started with a false report of gunshots.
“It’s a simple lesson that was learned from the JFK incident last year,” Schumer said. “When multiple law enforcement agencies are operating in the same area, it’s critical that there be a joint command center to help coordinate security and responses to incidents.”
Schumer said the federal Department of Homeland Security should issue recommendations for the best way to keep transportation hubs safe. He said Congress should increase rail security funding for Penn Station and other hubs.