According to AnnArbor.com, our elected leaders are apparently “weighing a plan to combine the city’s police and fire departments” into a single public safety entity, in hopes of cutting costs even further during this unprecedented period of sharply rising costs and falling revenues. Here’s a clip.
…The proposal would cross-train police officers and firefighters, cutting the department down to three full-time firefighters.
That threat, following years of budget trimming, prompted Fire Chief Jon Ichesco to submit his retirement plans in late September.
The police department has 25 sworn officers and four civilians. The fire department has 18 firefighters.
Through attrition, by the end of this year the fire department will be down to 15. If this plan is implemented the department would further decline to having just three firefighters, three lieutenants, and one fire marshal, who would also serve as a lieutenant.
The plan calls for a fire deputy chief, police deputy chief and a director of public safety whose responsibilities would encompass the entire department. All together there would be about 42 employees. Of that number, 20 would be cross-trained public safety officers.
If implemented, Ypsilanti would be the first city within the county to cross-train police and firefighters.
Fire Union President Ken Hobbs said the plan would effectively eliminate a layer of command from the department and stretch resources thin.
“Currently we have three captains and three lieutenants,” he said. “The plan eliminates captains. They’re two separate professions and if you try to combine the two, you’re going to water it down.
“The police side is demanding and the fire is demanding. It’s a huge difference for us in the way we operate. I don’t think the city has a plan.”…
Does anyone remember, back when we were debating whether or not to pass a City income tax, and people on the anti-tax side would refer to pro-tax people as “fear mongers” whenever they dared to bring up the fact that public safety employees would inevitably be cut, should the tax not pass? It’s kind of funny how silent these folks are now that we’re talking about cutting our full-time fire fighters down to just three, isn’t it?
As for cross-training public safety employees so that they can both fight fires and shoot criminals, I think it’s a great idea. I’d go a step further, though. I’d also have them picking up trash as they make their way around town, so that we can lay off a few more public employees. As long as these new firefighter-cop hybrids of ours are running down alleys after a criminals, for instance, why not have them scoop up some candy wrappers in their hand that’s not engaged in dispensing lethal force? Or, better yet, maybe they could just cut out the middle man, and just have the criminals do the work of public safety officers? Why not have prisoners fighting our fires? They’re plentiful, cheap and expendable… Before you laugh, you should know that it’s already being discussed in Georgia. This, my friends, is the future that we’re leaving to our children.
For those who are interested, these are all things that we’ve discussed here before…. We’ve had really great conversations over the past half-dozen years about living in a post public safety world, and the prospect of having to shoot our own bad guys and put out our own fires, like good, little “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” Libertarians, should additional revenues not be forthcoming. And, now… finally… it looks like we’re going to get out chance to truly experience the exhilarating freedom that comes with radical self-sufficientcy. Finally, we’re throwing off the shackles of modern society, and boldly stepping into a paradise the likes of which hasn’t been seen here since our distant ancestors began living to be over 30 years old. Can you feel the excitement?
[a note to young readers: I predict that a majority of jobs in the coming decade will be in the field of private security. The rich may have decided that they don't want to continue funding police and fire services for everyone else, but they sure as hell haven't decided that they themselves should live without security and fire protection.]
And, yes, I realize I may be overreacting. Councilman Murdock did tell me, when I asked him about this, that there are examples of communities where police and fire departments have been merged quite successfully. I have my doubts that such a thing would work in a community like ours, but I suppose I should keep an open mind… And there’s always the possibility that we could strike a deal with our surrounding communities, to establish a robust, functional regional system, which could save us all money by eliminating redundancy… Or, we could do the unthinkable, and start fighting back against our state and local plutocrats, who have decided that their wealth is more precious than the lives of the people who make their delicious chai drinks at Starbucks, polish their produce at Whole Foods, teach their kids, etc… Before we start talking about revolution, though, I’d like to go back, for a minute, to the idea of a regional authority. Here, with more on that, is another clip from AnnArbor.com.
…Ichesco has voiced his opposition to the plan and said there are other viable options worth considering.
“There are options from a functional district, to going to a full authority to contracting out,” he said. “When you do this it has to be specific for you. It has to be tailored around your work… I think a regional authority is probably the most advantageous to go with.”
Hobbs and Ichesco said prior regional authority discussions had taken place in 2007 with the city of Ann Arbor and its previous City Administrator Roger Fraser. Although those discussions never panned out, Ichesco said they recently were put back on the table.
“They are again interested in looking at this regionally, but this public safety system is something Mr. Lange is familiar with,” Ichesco said.
Schreiber confirmed that talks have taken place with other neighboring communities about a possible regional fire authority. Locally, other municipalities have not only explored, but ultimately created authorities. Chelsea has had a fire department since 1881, while the regional fire authority, which brought together the city, Lima, Lyndon and Sylvan townships, began in 1999.
“I think when you stand back and look at it, it makes all the sense in the world to have a regional fire department,” Schreiber said. “It gets very complex very quickly and it’s going to take a considerable amount of effort from everybody.”
Schreiber said the creation of a regional authority has been a goal of Ichesco’s for a long while.
“In a perfect world that’s where I would like to see us go,” Schreiber said…
And, one last thing. I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind people that this was a conversation that many of us have been wanting to have since 2007, when the prospect of a city income tax was first brought up. Several of us wanted to talk about what would happen to our public safety staffing levels, and the subsequent issues that would likely arise, should additional revenues not be secured, but, time and again, we were met with outright refusals to publicly discuss the facts. Keeping taxes low, it would seem, was more of a priority than giving the citizens of Ypsilanti the objective facts they needed to make informed decisions. And, now, we’re experiencing the result.