The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Cops, courts and fires

August 18, 2013

Fire chiefs question Public Safety Officer concept

Program would cross-train police officers, firefighters


“The last place I wanted to be was in the line of fire,” he said.

Gardner said the specialization needed for each job makes the time and training required to do both prohibitive. In 2009, the International Association of Firefighters drafted a general opposition to PSOs. The fire union argued the department would actually raise costs, neglect the fire safety program, provide insufficient on-the-job experience, cause role conflicts and destroy the team concept.

Elwood Fire Chief Brad Compton agreed.

“It has to be proven to work, and I think I see a lot of loopholes,” he said.

Interestingly, in many small Indiana communities some police officers already split time as volunteer firefighters. Compton, who has a few such volunteers in his department, said he doesn’t have a problem with that, if the officer can handle the stress of both jobs.

“I believe in public safety, and I have no problem with policemen, but they’re different people,” he said. “There are about eight people in our (fire) department that probably don’t even own guns.”

Pendleton has also had dual officers in the past, but Gardner said the last one finally decided to commit entirely to the police side because the responsibility of helping both departments was overwhelming.

“You’ve got to have time for life and family, too,” Gardner said.

Sunnyvale, Calif., has made a PSO program work. There is one public safety department, one dispatch center, and one job description: public safety officer. The PSO program has allowed that city to spend about half of what similar California communities spend on public safety per capita.

The Anderson Firefighters Union Local 1262 published a post on its Facebook page on Wednesday illuminating some differences between Sunnyvale and Anderson, including population, median household income and city budgets. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Anderson’s population in 2012 was estimated at 55,554, while Sunnyvale’s was 146,197.

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