Police crosstrained as firefighters.....
Alright first off I'm sure this topic has been beaten to death but I'd just like to share whats goin on in my neck of the woods. Another attemt to save money by the man. I'm not a big fan of this, cops have enough training to do as it is.
Woodbury police to try double duty as firefighters
With not enough volunteer firefighters during the day, the city will train police to help fill the role. The uncommon strategy is used in New Brighton, but has been discarded in Burnsville.
Jim Adams, Star Tribune
Last update: February 27, 2006 – 7:26 AM
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Dan Olson, New Brighton Public Safety Department deputy director, and Tony Paetznick, New Brighton police officer, go through ice rescue equipment which they recently trained on as part of ongoing firefighter training. The New Brighton Public Safety Department is the only city in the area that is using a cross-training model in which police officers are trained as firefighters.
Joey McLeister, Star Tribune
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Facing a common suburban problem of too few volunteer firefighters, especially during the day, Woodbury will be hiring police officers who will be trained to respond to fires while on duty.
The cross-training approach avoids expensive full-time fire departments, makes better use of officers who are often the first to arrive at fires and gives the city flexibility to address both needs. In New Brighton, leaders say it's effective. Last fall when authorities discovered a body in a fire, a cross-trained officer was able to safeguard evidence while putting out hot spots.
But some say the officer-firefighter model has drawbacks. That includes the amount of training needed for officers who must maintain both police and fire certifications, said Gary Tokle, of the National Fire Protection Association, a fire standards agency. He said cross-training was more widely discussed and tried around the nation about 25 years ago, but not many cities adopted it.
Burnsville tried it then, but went to a full-time department after four years. Kalamazoo, Mich., and Sunnyvale, Calif., still use it.
Tom Brace, executive director of the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association, noted that officers generally work alone while firefighters respond in crews.
"On the surface, it seems like there'd be a lot of economy of scale out of getting double duty," he said. "But I think over time there is a distinct difference in how these people work. ... In practice, I don't know a lot of success stories."
New Brighton is one of those stories, city officials said.
The New Brighton example
Seven of its 28 officers volunteered for training as firefighters, along with eight other city workers, said Public Safety Director Bob Jacobson. The city also has 23 paid volunteer firefighters who respond as needed, but all firefighters are required to work at least 25 percent of fires.
Dan Olson was a volunteer firefighter before becoming a New Brighton officer in 1993 and eventually the fire chief. Cross-training of police officers has "worked better than I ever dreamed," he said.
Dual training paid off last fall when officer and fire Capt. Tony Paetznick arrived at a fire where a beaten body was found. He was asked to protect crime scene evidence while making sure the fire's hot spots were out.
"I think citizens are getting a much better value," said Paetznick, who is also president of the local police union.
Olson said an on-duty officer's first job is police work, but officers are usually the first at a fire scene and, if cross-trained, can assess how serious a fire is and radio firetrucks about how to approach and where to find the nearest hydrant.
Woodbury plans to phase in 14 cross-trained officers -- new hires or officer volunteers -- over five years. The city also will hire five more full-time firefighters, said Public Safety Director William Hering. He said the city has seven full-time firefighters and 58 police positions.
The new hires were recommended by a Woodbury task force after a two-year review of fire industry response standards and of Woodbury's fire and police calls. The group of citizens and city officials set a goal that five firefighters or cross-trained police officers would respond to fire or hazardous substance calls within nine minutes in nine out of 10 calls. If a fire is verified, an additional six paid, on-call volunteer firefighters would arrive within four more minutes.
While Woodbury's volunteer firefighter ranks shrank, population and construction boomed. Fire and police calls rose by about 25 percent between 2000 and 2004. There were 650 fire calls in 2004, including 60 that resulted in fire damage. Police calls jumped to 26,000 in 2004.
"We realized we had a problem," Hering said. The officer-firefighters model is estimated to save nearly $370,000 over the next five years compared with having a full-time fire department, said City Administrator Clint Gridley.
Hering noted that enough officers will be hired so that even when those with two roles are at fire calls, there will be sufficient officers on patrol to handle police matters.
Woodbury police union President Paul Torguson said the model can work if planned staff levels are maintained.
Burnsville walked away
Burnsville tried the cross-training approach in the late 1970s, but after four years opted for a full-time fire department, said Burnsville detective Dan Huberty. He was hired in 1978 when police began rotating through fire station shifts. He said some career officers opposed the change because they were forced to work as firefighters on and off duty.
Huberty said he thinks the cross-training failed because of officer resistance, too little training and too few firefighters to handle increasing fire and police calls.
Told of Woodbury's plans, Huberty said it might work "if enough training and the desire are there from those that are signing up to do this."
Jim Adams • 612-673-7658
Don't bet your check on it
Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo
While I agree they are 2 distinctive roles, I think the PSO system has merit for smaller cities. As budgets continue to tighten, I anticipate much more experimentation.
Kalamazoo Michigan has been PSO since the mid 80’s. Those that I have asked say they like it. “Never a dull moment.” They started as a PSO and can’t imagine split roles.