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Sockey

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Plan to create a City of Monroe public safety department draws supporters and critics    Monroe Evening News, 4/10/11     
Combining forces?

BY JEFF MEADE

jmeade@monroenews.com
Imagine a police officer responding to an emergency but replacing his gun with fire department “turnout gear” as he assists to contain or to rescue at the scene of a blazing fire.

That scenario may not be far-fetched in the City of Monroe, where officials may be about to combine their police and fire departments.

Twelve city police officers completed 227 hours of fire training last month, the first step in what could lead to a combined police-fire public safety department in Monroe.

City Manager George Brown, police Chief Tom Moore and fire Chief Joe Mominee all recommended last fall that the city council consider a plan to “incrementally implement” a comprehensive public safety services operation. All cited safety concerns because of reduced manpower in their departments. The fire department has been reduced from 41 to 19 in the last five years and the police department from 47 to 37. Because of reduced staffing, the Monroe Fire Department discontinued ambulance transport operations in mid-2010.

But critics of the plan say using police officers as firefighters puts city residents in jeopardy. The issue has resulted at least peripherally in three Monroe County Circuit Court lawsuits, including one filed by the firefighters union.

The city administration and the police and fire chiefs will present a reorganization plan to city council at a special work session Monday night.

GENESIS

A “City-Wide Operational Study” conducted by Rehmann Robson of Jackson and released in June, 2007, included a recommendation that Monroe consider combining police and fire administrations to create a public safety department.

City council members adopted the report and followed through with and even exceeded most of the recommendations. One recommendation eliminating the clerk/treasurer position proved impossible. That required a voter-approved charter change and city voters soundly rejected changing the clerk/treasurer from an elected to an appointed position last November.

The 2007 report called for eliminating the fire chief and adding a deputy fire chief. The deputy police and fire chiefs would serve under a newly created public safety director. The study further suggestedv the police chief to become the public safety director and that he be paid a base annual salary of $90,000. John Michrina was chief of police at the time of the recommendation, but he left Monroe to become city manager of Center Line and was replaced with Chief Moore.


CROSS- TRAINING

The city manager and chiefs’ recommendation called for the voluntary training of current police officers and firefighters who would be certified for both professions and designated as public safety officers.

They also recommended provisions that would allow current safety officers to elect not to go through the cross-training and certification.

The Police Officers Association of Michigan representing Monroe’s patrol officers proposed that city police officers go through Firefighter I and II certification training. They said it would enhance their skills and ability should the city decide to implement a public safety operation.

Twelve city police officers went through 58 fire training classes between November and March while maintaining their regular police jobs. All were temporarily appointed to part-time positions in the Monroe Fire Department although they have not done any official firefighting. Another group will go through the same training in 2011-12.

“I liked it,” said one Monroe police officer who went through the cross-training.

“A number of communities are doing this.”

He said the plan is to eventually hire people who are trained for both police and fire, saying it will take seven to 10 years to complete the transition through attrition and retirements.

Chief Moore said a public safety department gives the city the best bang for its buck.

“The majority of the police officer’s time is going to be spent doing exactly what they’re doing now police work,” he said. “When people really see what goes on behind the scenes, this is a no-brainer.

“From a response-availability standpoint, we already go to all the fire calls anyway. Typically on a fire call, the police officer is first on the scene because we’re already out in the field patrolling. Now we will have somebody first on the scene reporting to the (fire) station who knows exactly what they’re doing. It’s a complete package now. We’re all on the same page with something that is much more cost effective.”

Chief Mominee noted that no more than 1 percent of firefighters’ time is actually spent responding to fire calls. He said instead of having 37 police officers and 18 firefighters, the department would have 56 public safety officers, strengthening both departments.

OPPOS I T I O N

The Monroe Firefighters Association, which is opposed to police officers being used as part-time firefighters, filed a grievance. It was heard by the Monroe Civil Service Commission in January which delayed a decision until researching whether it had jurisdiction over the matter under Michigan Public Act 78.

But the commission has not met since and it doesn’t appear that it will until a series of legal battles are settled.

The city council appointed David Thompson to a seat on the Civil Service Commission. The city maintains that Mr. Thompson replaced Richard Turner who had been on the commission for 25 years. Commission Chairman Kenneth Beach said the Turner seat was not the city’s to fill and that it did not expire until February.

The scheduled Jan. 28 commission meeting was adjourned for lack of a quorum after Mayor Robert E.

Clark presented Mr. Turner a letter saying his term had expired and a replacement had been appointed. Mr.

Turner disagreed. He, Mr. Beach and City Clerk/Treasurer Charles Evans maintain Mr. Turner remains on the commission.

Mayor Clark filed suit against Mr. Turner seeking his removal. Mr. Beach and the Civil Service Commission filed their own suit against the mayor. Mayor Clark says Mr. Beach has no right to file on behalf of the commission because it has taken no formal action.

Mayor Clark says that Mr. Beach “is attempting to independently run the civil service board and I believe exceeding his authority. This is an appointed board under the city, not an independent board.”

Another lawsuit was filed by the Monroe Firefighters Association against the city, but its request for a preliminary injunction stopping police cross-training was denied by Circuit Judge Michael W. LaBeau, who is hearing all three lawsuits. The judge said the city apparently is setting the stage for a public safety department but called that a political decision for the parties involved, not for the court.

Monroe Firefighters Local 326 President Derek Whittaker says adding police officers to the fire department would put current firefighters at risk because the officers do not go through the same degree of training.

Chief Moore responds that “everyone meets the state minimum requirement for firefighting. The difference is the current firefighters are license paramedics. We have to separate the medical from the fire suppression because we already have the staffing for the medical.”

Mr. Beach said the mayor is attempting to stack the Civil Service Commission. He says using police officers as firefighters will cause the city’s fire insurance rating to be harmed, causing insurance rates to go up for every homeowner in the city.

“They’re trying to do this through the back door,” Mr. Beach said. “If they want to combine the police and fire departments, it should be decided by a vote of the people.”

Mr. Brown said it is ridiculous to suggest the city’s plans could hurt the fire insurance rating in any way because they actually will improve response time.

“What we’re proposing is significantly strengthening the city’s ability to respond more timely and more effectively to fires,” he said. “We just got our new fire rating and it stayed the same (4) even with a significant reduction in personnel.” He said the rating takes into account several other factors, including water system flow and building inspections.

Chief Mominee said there is no reason why the change would adversely affect the fire rating because it improves response time. He is the rating is based 10 percent on the dispatch center, 40 percent on water supply and 50 percent on the fire department, which includes training records, fire engines, ladders, availability of personnel and mutual or automatic aid agreements.

WHAT’S NEXT

Mr. Brown plans a recommendation to council regarding “organizational alignment” Monday. Mayor Clark added, “We’re looking at all departments and the delivery of services. The bottom line is we want to make sure we’re delivering the best level of service that we can.”

The mayor said he wants the input of all parties involved, including the firefighters, on how best to bring everybody along in the transition. “I want to have their (firefighters’) input, their recommendations and their desires as to how this can best be implemented,” he said.
Chief Moore said that while a public safety department wouldn’t work in Detroit or Toledo, it will work in Monroe.

“We are both extremely comfortable that, given the circumstances that we have now, this is absolutely the best move to make,” he said. “Is is perfect? No. Nothing’s perfect. But it basically brings our heads back above water because we were treading water.”

Chief Mominee added: “Right now, it’s a turf thing. Two or three years down the road, I see it being a cohesive thing. It won’t be an adversarial thing as it is now.”

Meanwhile, the method, timeline and potential of converting to a police-fire public service department may be determined by the courts. A Michigan appeals court panel in January blocked Highland Park’s attempt to combine police and fire, but in that case they found it violated the city charter, which required separate police and fire departments.

A pre-status conference on the Monroe case is scheduled for April 21. A hearing to enjoin two of the three lawsuits is scheduled to be held before Judge LaBeau at 1:15 p.m. April 29.

« Last Edit: April 10, 2011, 08:43:23 AM by Sockey »
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The Fuzz

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Re: A Public Safety Department in Monroe, what are your thoughts?
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2011, 09:04:06 AM »

I recently flew back from San Jose with one of their city councilmen.  Great discussion regarding city politics and government.  He made mention of all the cross training of the public service departments going on through the state.

This topic made me look it up.....it can and is done:

http://www.mercurynews.com/sunnyvale/ci_17646152

"In the hub of the intellectually stimulating Silicon Valley, Sunnyvale is home to some of the brainiest companies, including Yahoo, Palm, Inc., and several aerospace/defense companies," according to the survey. "Sunnyvale is one of the few U.S. cities to have a single unified Department of Public Safety (where all personnel are trained as firefighters, police officers and EMTs), so they can respond to any of these types of emergencies from a single department. Now that's smart."

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Professor H

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Re: A Public Safety Department in Monroe, what are your thoughts?
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2011, 09:30:12 AM »

I'm sure it was overlooked or not yet finalized, but I have been told the police are being paid extra (5 + 3 = 8%) to do firefighters work.

Now it makes sense why the city just contracted with Monroe Township and Frenchtown Township to respond "automatically" for fires...   they won't have a fire department left in a few years, but 10 cops driving around town will help them. (5 current cops, and 5 converted ff/cops) 

There are a few cities that have combined programs, but their are many others that have taken other tracts to save money and maintain services.

If it was really about savings, they would have contracted with the Sheriff - like other communities have done throughout the US.   
You have more duplicated services with the City/County police, and taxpayers in the City pay for both.   
Beyond top level management and budget oversight, the duplication of services in fire/police are minimal.
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rands

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Re: A Public Safety Department in Monroe, what are your thoughts?
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2011, 10:44:01 AM »

Frenchtown has not signed this agreement yet.  The firefighters from Frenchtown that I have talked to are against the idea.  their run volume is increasing as it is. Some of them feel (and I have to agree with them) that the city wants to use both Monroe Twp. and Frenchtown to supplement the city. The city will get free firefighters.  The city will have nothing to offer back to them.  This will really come true this summer after 4 or 5 of their firefighters retire.  There is no plan to fill those spots.  This will put their shifts down to 4 firefighters on two shifts and 5 firefighters on one shift.  I would think that they would then close the west side station.
If you look at the article, it states "All (police officers) were temporally appointed to part-time positions in the Monroe Fire Department although they have not done any official firfighting."  From what I have been told, you have to be a member of a fire department to take the FFI-II training from the Monroe County Firemans Association (the state provides all liability for the class, this is why you have to be a member of a department). To me this is out right fraud that the city did. The state should be contacted and their certifications revoked.
I have also heard that the police officers were paid a $6,000 bonus to take the class.
 So now you have officers trained as firefighters, medical first responders and your not using them. Sounds like money well spent (not).
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Sockey

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Re: A Public Safety Department in Monroe, what are your thoughts?
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2011, 11:46:25 AM »

rands;  Thank you for your comments

You point out "the firefighters from Frenchtown that I have talked to are against the idea".  I would have to ask the question, would you think a Frenchtown Career Firefighter would say anything different considering they are in the same union, IAFF, as the Monroe Firefighters?

You also point out "the city will have nothing to offer back to them", and in another sentence "so now you have officers trained as firefighters, medical first responders and your not using them. Sounds like money well spent (not)."

While some might see this as the case, what do you suppose the 12 recently trained police officers will have to offer?  It appears the City is not planning on wasting the taxpayers money at all, when in fact they are laying out a plan to fortify the system.

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rands

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Re: A Public Safety Department in Monroe, what are your thoughts?
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2011, 12:32:02 PM »

Sockey,  The firefighters I talked part of the paid on call, they are not members of the IAFF. so they are not in the same union.
Second, when you only have 4 fire fighters on duty and Monroe twp or frenchtown call for help, do you really think that these police officers are going to respond? Monroe will not have the man power to give aid when called upon, provided that they are not already on a call. 
Look at what this department has already given up, no more haz mat, no special rescue (confined space or high angle), public education, EMS transport and I'm sure I missed some.
Is it good that these police officers who went to these classes under false pretenses, just sit around at Boomers and loose their skills that they just learned?  Yes I have seen as many as 3 Monroe police cars at Boomers in the morning at the same time. 
THey are just trying to fix a system that wasn't broken.
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Boylanjl

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Re: A Public Safety Department in Monroe, what are your thoughts?
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2011, 03:22:43 PM »

I still want to see a plan for maintaining police protection during a major fire event.   Right now one third of the PD has been trained, and I assume the next group trained will make the total of 2/3's of the PD trained.  So lets say you have the on duty FFs and ff trained POs at a fire,  that leaves 1/3 of the PD to police the city, or in what could really happen, all POs at a fire scene as FFs and crowd control.   Now the rest of the city has no PD protection.   Also with mutual aid agreements, will Patrolling PSO's be committed to the mutual aid or performing Police duties in the City?  These are questions that need to be asked t truly determine if a PSO plan can suceed, but for it truly to work the two departments and the citizens have to believe in it.   I believe there are many questions that need to be answered before the public can really wiegh in on this subject as the amount of questions that need to be answered will not be till a comprehensive plan is presented to the city council.  I can see how a city the size of Monroe is looking at to save money and optimize the services.

Anyone know if the City Charter is online, I have searched and can not find it.   

One last question, maybe Brian could answer this, was a Paid on Call FF even thought about by the city?
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The Fuzz

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Re: A Public Safety Department in Monroe, what are your thoughts?
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2011, 03:31:25 PM »

Humm.....so they should plan for the worse possible scenario and man to that?
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Sockey

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Re: A Public Safety Department in Monroe, what are your thoughts?
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2011, 04:14:16 PM »

The City charter can be accessed at this address:

http://www.ecode360.com/?custId=MO1856

And in the event you are looking to see if it says anything about a separate police and fire department, it does not.  It only stipulates that there shall be a Police Chief and a Fire Chief.

The MEN also stated that Highland Park was the recent court case when in fact it was Harper Woods.
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butterfly

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Re: A Public Safety Department in Monroe, what are your thoughts?
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2011, 06:26:25 PM »

A question I have is, how can the police offers be appointed as part time firefighters when they fire dept has several firefighters laid off?  Not sure how unions work, but I thought you had to call laid off people back before any new members are appointed, or hired.
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Brian Beneteau

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Re: A Public Safety Department in Monroe, what are your thoughts?
« Reply #10 on: April 10, 2011, 08:01:08 PM »

A question I have is, how can the police offers be appointed as part time firefighters when they fire dept has several firefighters laid off?  Not sure how unions work, but I thought you had to call laid off people back before any new members are appointed, or hired.
Perhaps rwwjr can speak as to recall rights as they apply to his former union you are referring to.
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I don't share my thoughts with the intent to change your mind...I simply wish to let others know my thoughts so that if they are like minded, they know they aren't alone.

laid off ff

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Re: A Public Safety Department in Monroe, what are your thoughts?
« Reply #11 on: April 10, 2011, 09:29:36 PM »

Public Safety Officers
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Frenchfry

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Re: A Public Safety Department in Monroe, what are your thoughts?
« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2011, 10:21:38 PM »

I can see how training police to save lives would help since they're often the first responders on the scene but I'm not sure eliminating firefighters would be in the best interest of the public.

But then as one city council member stated in another thread....I don't matter.....that's because I'm not a city resident.
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This is what I see when I visit:

"Sorry Frenchfry, you are banned from posting and sending personal messages on this forum.
This ban is not set to expire."

No emails, no warnings, no communication whatsoever...just that ban

May be what happened to the other libs as well.

I guess disabling the report to admin link only on the lib side was indicative of the slanted games they play.

Enjoy your spoon-fed Faux News type right-wing echo-chamber.

Edited to add:

This is the only way to answer some of the questions posed:

1) I did nothing to warrant the banishment, it's political.

2) It's the router that's blocked but considering all the nonsense right-wing games being played by those running the site...it's just not worth it to bypass the banishment block.

3) The moron stalkers from MT contemplating a visit will be considered a threat and can expect to have a bad day if they act upon those idiotic thoughts.

bumfunkegypt@live.com

Brian Beneteau

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Re: A Public Safety Department in Monroe, what are your thoughts?
« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2011, 10:30:03 PM »

Looks like an IAFF production!


I can see how training police to save lives would help since they're often the first responders on the scene but I'm not sure eliminating firefighters would be in the best interest of the public.

But then as one city council member stated in another thread....I don't matter.....that's because I'm not a city resident.
Is that what I said? I thought I just said you don't matter, period!

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I don't share my thoughts with the intent to change your mind...I simply wish to let others know my thoughts so that if they are like minded, they know they aren't alone.

Sockey

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Re: A Public Safety Department in Monroe, what are your thoughts?
« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2011, 10:33:44 PM »

laid off ff;

Thanks for providing a professionally created video on behalf of the International Association of Firefighters Union and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.  Although everyone realizes these organizations want to preserve their numbers, there are some valid issues presented in the video that need to be taken into consideration at the local level.  Some of those issues are the number of fire incidents, if the FD transports, if the City plans to implement a full PSO operation or keep a core group of career firefighters on staff and supplement them with PSO's.  As one can see, it is not a perfect solution for every jurisdiction but one has to ask, why would it not work in Monroe?
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