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Police SirenIn Sunnyvale, California, police officers fight fires and firefighters investigate crimes. They all can perform emergency medical services.

In a move to save money, all public safety personnel are cross-trained. The Los Angeles Times reports:

At a time of municipal budget crises, more cities are eyeing Sunnyvale’s model of cross-training all sworn personnel in police, fire and emergency medical services. At least 130 now employ some form of public safety consolidation.


Although training costs are steep and constant, the blended functions allow Sunnyvale to spend less on public safety than surrounding communities do — $519 per capita compared with $683 in Mountain View and $950 in Palo Alto, according to the most recent data available.


Most of the public safety department’s 195 sworn officers submit a preference annually for their next assignment, although detectives remain on the job for five years before they’re asked to switch to fire. There is little turnover, Lt. James Anton said.

“You go from robbery/homicide and the next day, you’re in the firehouse cleaning toilets,” said Anton, who will move to fire duty in February.

This model raises a ton of concerns. For example, there’s a trend in television news to make reporters shoot, edit, write and deliver their stories. It’s called “one-man-banding.” Often, something suffers in the finished product, whether it’s the pictures or the story-telling. Rare is the reporter who can do all of those things really well at the same time, especially when on deadline.

Combining police and fire is way more serious than putting together a news story. Public safety is at stake. There’s a high degree of specialized skills.

It’s an interesting model and I’m curious if it will spread.

Links of the Day:

– If Joe Morelle gets the number two assembly post, should he still serve as chairman of the Monroe County Democratic Committee? Meanwhile, the Irondequoit Democratic Committee, of which Morelle is a member, voted to appoint Morelle’s 24-year-old son as Ted O’Bren’s successor in the county legislator.

– Putnam County refuses to release pistol permit records to a newspaper. In Monroe County, one only need look on the clerk’s website. It’s cumbersome, but public.

– Was the nation indifferent to gun violence before Newtown, because victims were often young black men in inner cities?  

New Hampshire’s governor, congressional reps and senators are all women. So are the chief justice and state house speaker.

– A Yates County dog lost in a snowstorm was found with the help of an 11-year-old and his turkey call.

9 Responses to Cross-training Cops, Firefighters

  1. I\’m just pasting what I posted on your Facebook page:

    It\’s been tried with both public and private services and they always fail (public safety officers was the monicker assigned to them from my memory and they were cops with fire gear in the trunk of the squad cars). You cannot expect a police officer to be as tactically and technically proficient as a professional firefighter and vice versa. That is not even taking into account the \’we aren\’t the cops, we aren\’t here looking to bust you\’ relationship that (at least in the city) firefighters present from their 1st interaction with citizens. That this is being discussed again after the attempts made in the 90\’s to introduce it just shows the complete ignorance of the public as to what police officers and firefighters actually do on a daily basis.
    But it is a new year, so I guess we should get back to bashing public sector workers.

  2. It is a horrible idea. To suggest the two jobs can be combined shows an ignorance of what the two do. The modern policeman and fireman is already pulled in many directions and disciplines to keep us safe. Just because they both protect the public doesn\’t mean the two can be combined. It\’d be like taking an electrician and asking him to do plumbing because its all just tubes in the walls. Many of the places that try it give up on the idea, same way many cities that contracted out public safety to private companies are returning to municipal fire. These combinations are always done as a way to fool people into accepting massive cuts to fire and police, with the lie that the cross training increases staffig for both. You can\’t serve two masters. Each side sees its staffing reduced with the idea that neither side will be busy at the same time, so one can support another. That works really nice if you could scheduale events around each other, but real life doesn\’t work that way. You get a big fire and the fire cops are playing fireman who is left to be a policeman? What happens when someone gets shot, robbed, or even just a property damage car accident? You want to wait while the remaining cops sort through the back log of calls, while they also play fireman to make up for all the firemen busy at the fire?

    It\’s funny the cuts always get pointed at the police and fire. I don\’t know when city hall thought they had more important jobs then police, fire, garbage, watrer, and street lights; but they need to realize that\’s what they\’re there for.

  3. Since you mention cost per capita, I will assume this effort is being done to curb costs. We have lost integrity and common sense in our government and replaced it with bribery and power. Police and firefighters are honorable professions. Their love for the work that they do should be their focus. Public unions have destroyed this model. Now the focus is on money, overtime, and pensions. These huge amounts of public money cannot be supported by local taxes. Since public unions support the Democratic Party candidates, things will not change. Something has to give. Either reforms to pay and benefits or a reduction in employees. Since the need for fireman and police is still needed, the solution by the weak, corrupt politician is to combine police and fire. The city of rochester is ripe with weak politicians. I would not be surprised to see this policy change soon enacted here. I think it is the wrong approach on so many levels.

  4. I\’ve never had more than a 3% raise, my pension is the same as it was in 1997 when I was hired (and an additional year was added to the time to reach full pay starting with my class, which also started at $3000 less than the class before it). I paid increasingly more for my health care each contract. I went years without a contract based 100% on Budget Bill flat out refusing to negotiate (causing arbitration and court win after court win against Bill et al), new hires take 1 1/2 more years to reach full pay than I did, their pension is much poorer and overtime of $1500 a year is the norm (about 3 overtimes) except for the years when there was incompetent leadership in the department and budget (Bill again) that resulted in not hiring enough people or making last minute cuts. I spent 2 years at the #1 position to be promoted to Lieutenant as the budget was slashed and slashed….. to make a political statement and force out the previous chief. Never got promoted. And our pension is the most safe pension fund in the country. Just because cities didn\’t budget the amounts they should have to make their payments isn\’t the membership\’s fault.
    So while your sentiments might be correct about other states or maybe other unions I can tell you that the RFD union has done more to save taxpayer dollars and offered up more ideas that were shot down (once again, by Budget Bill…. who moved over to the school district for a fat $50,000 a year raise). Nobody yells to stop funding 14621 and NEAD or about pizza parties at rec centers and donuts/muffins for city hall meetings. It\’s always the cops and firemen and their evil unions. 2013, already off to a great start.

  5. January 2, 2013 at 10:57 am theodore kumlander responds:

    this is the corporatzation or idustrialazation of public services having police , fire and paramedics do each others jobs. it is trying show pound square pegs into round holes.

    this may comes as shocking news to the new public executives but people are do the jobs they like and are good at. forcing them to do something they do not like and are not good at is a bad idea.

  6. Justaguy…this isn\’t about you. It is the total package. It includes everyone who is paid by tax dollars. Remember in 1990\’s when the teachers union got a 45% raise. This was intended to retain good teachers and increase education in the city. How did that work! The mess is a collection of all the public sector unions trying to get everything they can. Over the years, they have. We now have no money to support these wages, benefits and pensions. This article describes one effort to save dollars. It happens to be about police and fire. It will eventually include schools, DPW, and maybe government itself. The days of public service being lower pay for a honorable profession such as firefighters, police, teachers is past. It is a shame. We could have higher employment, smaller classroom sizes, better safety, less crime if only personal riches weren\’t the main focus of unions. As for RFD, how many firefighters actually live in the city? As for RPD or RCSD, how many live in the city? the cost of living in the city is actually less than most suburbs. Do you really need these wages if you lived in the city?

  7. This is about me, I am the RFD, I am a union member. Why does my residency matter? I was a city resident for years. When I was considering applying to the Los Angeles Fire Dept. before moving back to NY they were proud to claim that they had firefighters from around the world and even one who flew his own private plane in from Colorado for his shifts. They wanted the best, period. Now they have former felons in the department (there are articles about it if you care to research.) because they want what you want. What I read you wanting is \’city jobs for city folks\’ instead of \’the best person for the job\’. Choosing slackers with residency is why we are in the situation we are. People like you have fallen for the hype apparently. Or perhaps you have an agenda other than providing the best services to the citizens? I don\’t know or care, but until you are on the inside and see the corruption in the APT ranks of all city departments you can pretend it is the unions and the arbitrators that have broken the piggybank. No contract is awarded without proof of ability to pay, like the proof Budget Bill was held in contempt for for refusing to provide during our last arbitration (the only arbitrated contract I\’ve seen in 16 years, we actually vote them up or down contrary to what lying politicos want you to believe). Ability to pay is not ability to pay after you kick back to various construction jobs for pet projects or non-profits, it is the ability to pay when your entire funding source is considered. As was said earlier, cops, firemen, schools, garbage/plowing and libraries…. anything else is gravy. Maybe you like your food covered in gravy but I prefer to taste food itself. Eliminate all non-essential spending and watch the budget plummet. But then, if you balance your budget you can\’t cry poor to Albany so it\’s better to be in the red 100% of the time and it comes with the additional bonus of being able to blame employees.

  8. People like me???? Who are people like me…people with common sense and integrity. People who believe that there is more to life than money and riches? People like me who live within their means. I certainly agree with hiring the best. What is the best? Do they have to be city residents…no. But if your pay isn\’t enough to live in Pittsford or Penfield, maybe you can live in the city. You\’ve pretty much described the state of our society today….greed and jeolousy.

  9. You described the overwhelming majority of City union members. I live off Empire in Irondequoit for the record, with Rt 590 screaming along in my backyard. Perhaps I misunderstood your inquiry into where I live. Maybe a clerk in Pittsford should make enough to live there instead of what the going rate is for all similar civil service clerks in the area? Are you saying employees should only be paid enough to live in the municipality they work for? My examples were to demonstrate that the union has made attempts to save money, removing all politics from the equation. The CITY refused to ever talk to the union without it being political first and foremost. When the union brought the concept of switching to a 24 hour schedule to the city, a schedule that would by the nature of the way it was worked result in lower sick time (ALWAYS the lowest of any city dept) it was met with a reply from Budget Bill of \’we will only discuss a schedule change if you are willing to put 1/2 of your sicktime on the table.\’ What?! OK,forget it, we still have the same day/nite schedule, all of our sick time and you gained nothing City. Because you ignored the financial benefit and focused on \’this is something they want\’, ignoring the common good they swore to work towards. Then they focused on that for contract negotiations and when we showed up and didn\’t want to discuss changing schedules (it was considered a dead option to us) they had no other offers. This led to years of arbitration. All because they listened to that hack Budget Bill, who as I said, is stealing an additional $50000 a year from the city via the school district. It isn\’t the guys and gals pushing brooms that is the greedy and jealous you spoke of, it is the \’leadership\’ that rules both parties. To think anything else is being willfully ignorant.

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