Are We Sitting Ducks For The Integrationists?
Best Defense Against Pressure for Combining Fire and Police Forces is a Fire Protection Job Well Done
INTEGRATE.,” defined by Webster, is “to form in the whole; to unite or become united so as to form a complete or perfect whole; unify;…”
There’s an idea blooming in the minds of many municipal administrators and others participating in or concerned with problems of municipal government which advocates, in greater or lesser degree, a union of fire and police services with personnel designated as “firepolice” or “public safety officers.” This arrangement is commonly identified as “integrated public safety services.” and requires the training of firemen in police work and police personnel in fire service activities.
As in most instances of plans and proposals involving revolutionary departure from traditional organization and policy, integration of fire and police departments (the combining of the duties of firemen and policemen) has created a hullabaloo in many quarters, probably more in the case of fire department personnel than in the case of police, though this is just a guess.
To state that there is vehement disagreement between proponents and critics of integration is an understatement. Unlike many hotly contested issues, there appears to be no middle ground of possible agreement, at least presently.
You’re either for integration or you’re “agin” it.
Let’s look at the pro and con of it while trying as best we can to remain objective:
The principal reason for the combining or integration of fire and police services is economy, closely followed by that of obtaining maximum utilization of the manpower of both departments. If one believes the rumors, some public employes in the safety services are “putting in” rather than utilizing their time on the job. At least that’s what integration advocates insist and they seem to feel that the prime offenders are fireman. By assigning police work as well as fire department responsibilities, along with dual training, the combination men are said to be an improved product. This is not without advantage to personnel in some instances, where salary rates have made the combination job more attractive. This is another point of the “pros” who contend that a better type employe is obtainable where the salary inducement goes along with the increased job activity and training.
The fire control problem is considered in this camp to be quite capable of solution, inasmuch as most communities now supporting integrated services are relatively small, and a good percentage appear to be so located that full advantage may be taken of mutual aid arrangements. Furthermore, all personnel are for the most part full timepaid employes who can be properly trained, and off-shift personnel can be summoned to supplement on-duty forces when the occasion demands. Such occasions, at least percentagewise, are considered rare.
Volunteers, or call men, can also be used to bolster the paid force in coping with fires which require added manpower, and at least a portion of these men can be employed as “sleepers” to increase night fire department strength. All this amounts to definite savings to taxpayers who are spared the additional cost of maintaining completely separate paid public safety services.
It is also argued, with some merit, perhaps, that firemen working as policemen become better acquainted with their communities while on patrol duty, better prepared to utilize hydrants and features of terrain and structures learned outside the fire house, which might benefit the fire fighting effort.
The organization of small city fire and police services as a combined unit can effect improved performance by providing a closely knit, well trained group which is believed superior to certain types of “Volunteer” organizations, which may possess “numbers” but lack the professional knowledge and ability of fewer personnel whose life work is public safety service. This is another argument in favor, especially, it is stated, where a town reaches that point where it must expand its fire and police services as the result of population increase and a building boom, annexation of fringe areas or an influx of industry on a moderate scale.
Facing such situations, the municipal administrator or governing body may decide that the establishment of a paid, separate fire department is too big a jump, but that some increase in paid personnel, plus integration, can be provided without requiring an “unreasonable” increase in budgetary requirements. The viewpoint of a councilman, mayor or city manager fovoring such a plan is not difficult to understand in the light of such argument, particularly so as these officials have a direct hand in obtaining and administering the funds required for the support of fire and police services.
Another feature of the combination department which is appealing is the freedom from stereotyped organization. Integration can be applied in almost any degree, from a very “mild” type instituted in Glencoe, I11. (pop. 7000) this year to the completely integrated groups found in several Detroit suburbs and in the Province of Quebec, Canada, where the combination public safety department appears to have been a widely adopted system, especially in smaller cities. The claim is also made that integration is practical because it can provide adequate training for the rank and file personnel to perform assigned tasks for either service “giving citizens balanced public safety services with limited number of men who are individually and collectively more valuable to the community than if they were specialized to a higher degree.”*
Jack of All Trades?
In rebuttal, the “cons” are saying “Jack of all trades and master of none” for one argument. Many fireman are bitter about the accusation made in some quarters that they are not as active as they should be, and cite 24-hour and like periods of duty as a working condition quite unlike that of most policemen. Some feel that the fire service (in many smaller cities at least) is becoming a goat for certain “police-minded” officials who can only hope to produce a glorified police set-up to the detriment of the fire service. Some police appear skeptical, for many police departments are already taxed beyond the limit of their manpower, the same as fire departments, and prefer new police recruits to men doubling in brass. Many firemen, it is claimed, have no desire “even a little bit,” to participate in police work and believe that policemen generally, feel the same way about fire department work, but that personnel are to some extent being goaded into combination organizations. Critics are also speculating over the fire loss records of integrated service communities. There seems to be considerable sentiment that when big fires occur integration will disintegrate because of inherent weakness described as (1) inability, because of combined duties and probable lack of on-duty manpower, to cope with the rarer large loss fires and (2) competency not comparable with the efficiency attainable by men whose sole responsibility is fire extinguishment and fire prevention (where members participate in both fire service activities).
Charles S. James, staff member, Public Administration Service, 1313 E. 60th St., Chicago, “Public Management.“ Feb., 1954, “Integration of Fire & Police Services.”
If a fire department is a lazy organization, it has its counterpart in the police service, other opponents declare, and deride the notion that assigning police duties to firemen will cure such a situation. Many fire authorities, it is pointed out, already have prescribed increased departmental activities and have launched such programs as dwelling inspections, company inspections and other intra-department projects. These men hold no brief for integration; for their personnel has no time for “exterior” activities involving other departments of the municipality. It is also the opinion of certain fire chiefs that many fires have been “lost” in the past which modern fire fighting tactics and up-todate equipment and training will “save” in the future—if adequately staffed departments are permitted to operate. They agree that the salary inducement is important to any program for increased activity for firemen, but that such should be confined to fire department work.
In Time of Stress, Both Services Are Pressed
The fact—and there’s no disputing this point—that at the time of a major fire both police and fire services find themselves pressed to the limit in fire fighting, rescue, traffic and crowd control work, is cited by most fire chiefs as the principal argument against integration.
Supplementing combined services with fire house sleepers to augment paid manpower is a plan which has been employed as long as fire stations have been staffed, but there appears to be difficulty in some communities even obtaining the sleepers of quantity and quality required. Savings to taxpayers and increased fire department efficiency may be effected to some extent if sleepers are on duty regularly to the extent that night manpower is adequately increased by men with some training and experience. However, such “call men” or volunteers who respond in the daytime can not be considered offsetting a shortage of paid personnel except to a very limited degree as far as grading is concerned. Mutual aid arrangements, if prearranged and on a running card basis, will help the local situation as regards response. Small municipalities in the main do not attempt to provide for Class I manning and the time will probably never come where such local officials will approve and be willing to finance full fire company manpower, so at best some sort of compromise arrangement must be anticipated. The compromise labeled “integration of fire and police services,” though seemingly adequate in examples cited does not appear to have the “staying power” necessary for general acceptance in smaller cities. Another slant which has been expressed is that propaganda appearing in support of combined departments attaches undue importance to the idea and appears to be part of a planned campaign to institute such a system in municipalities where fire and police departments are small. As stated, no matter what plan is to be employed, both departments (or the combination) will be understaffed in such communities. It is a well known fact that most cities are undermanned according to National Board of Fire Underwriters standards, especially in the group up to 25,000 population.
The National Board’s special interest bulletin No. 300, Nov. 30, 1953, has considerable to say on the subject. Of particular significance is the following:
AcHviJies of Both Fire and Police Highly Specialized
“It must therefore be recognized that the fire department activities, as well as those of the police department, are highly specialized; and the services each performs are diversified and vastly different in every aspect. The personnel attached to each department must receive continuous, specialized schooling and training in their respective fields if they are to execute efficiently, their various duties and assignments.” The bulletin also declares that “the two types of work, namely that of a fire department and that of a police department are quite incompatible.”
Coming from the insurance rate establishing agency (through grading) these words have considerable significance, although they do not necessarily mean that any and all forms of integration are “out,” because the same bulletin also states that “The National Board of Fire Underwriters is sympathetic with any municipal economy move which does not adversely affect the over-all public fire protection of a city or town and thereby imperil the lives and property of its citizens….”
Well, there you have it, pro and con! The battle lines are drawn—and who knows, YOU may be drafted into this experiment for the cause of…economy?
Not exactly. Some proponents insist, perhaps with some justification, that this idea (combined departments) offers the best opportunity to make full utilization of the on-duty time of fire and police personnel. Of course this can mean only one thing to a fireman—he’s going to work by a time table in a combined fire and police organization. He’s going to do some patrol work, desk watch, perhaps, and attend to other unfamiliar duties. One day he may be on a manhunt, or handling snarled traffic at a football game, and the next he’ll be battling a two-alarmer with hose line or axe. He certainly won’t lack a variety of tasks to perform. Some believe. however that firemen will be no more “miserable” in the setup than police.
The question is: “Is Integration Rad?” Is it wrong, unreasonable or stupid for municipal officials to require this type of jack-of-all-trades performance on the part of firemen and policemen? Is it a practical, workable or sensible solution to the municipal public safety problem in smaller cities?
In certain communities there appears to be some justification for combining forces, to a limited extent at least. One thing is certain. Some municipal officials and students of municipal affairs are convinced that they have arrived at a reasonable solution for a perennial budgetary and manpower problem. “Public Management” magazine’s staff member James’ recent report makes these deductions: “Some limited generalizations can be made from the experiences of the six cities considered (Grosse Pointe Woods, 20,000; Grosse Pointe Shores, 1,200; Huntington Woods, 5,000, three Detroit suburbs, and Sunnyvale, Calif., 15,000; Trois Rivières, 50,000, and Shawinigan Falls, 27,000, the latter two in Quebec, Canada)….“To provide service without either neglecting or overemphasizing any element of the work is the basic problem of integrated public safety operations, but that problem is administrative rather than technical…. It is well known that at times certain parts of the total police or fire program have been woefully neglected and others magnified out of all proportion when a city or department administrator has been unwilling or unable to give proper balance to all his responsibilities.” An examination of a list of communities operating various forms of combined police and fire services shows a predominance of small size municipalities. Places where full time paid organizations of both fire and police have existed independently—except for one instance —have not attempted to integrate. It is plain that in most places where the combination has been implemented, the only fully paid public safety agency was the police department at the time, so the decision to “integrate” was certainly not momentous and can be assumed to have been planned as a transitory solution, or an outright experiment. The public, of course, is likely to accept the arrangement until or unless disaster strikes, and will then insist upon an accounting if all does go well. It will be at that time when the system will be really on trial and not until that time.
Method Aimed at “Sitting Ducks”
Of course the adage “Nothing Tried, Nothing Gained” can be employed to defend such departures from traditional type services. And lest the fire service be harsh in judging the acts and motives of those who are sponsoring of supporting integration, let’s recognize that these people are not insincere and that they are trying their best to solve the increasingly pressing problem of municipal financing and budgeting. One highly publicized method advocated, the combining of fire and police personnel in a single or dovetailed organization, does have one strong point in some localities: it is aiming at the “sitting ducks” in the fire service and police service, with emphasis on the former. It is designed to alter the system where firemen sit and wait for fires—granted a lot of night fire control work is done and sleepless nights “enjoyed” by firemen which is unseen by those, who, when seeing a firemen sitting while the clock ticks in the daytime condemn the act and call for “full utilization of municipal employes’ time.” We firemen must recognize one salient point. If we appear as sitting ducks we can expect someone to take a pot shot!
(Continued on page 440)
Are We Sitting Ducks for the Integrationists?
(Continued from page 398)
This is one reason for some unpopular fire department regulations designed to eliminate chairs in front of fire stations and other forms of relaxation which the public (as well as cartoonists) often misinterpret.
It appears that the dime novel, pinochle deck and easy chair pursuit of happiness in the fire service are attaining obsolesence.
We small towners had better be realistic about it lest we become integrated! Perhaps we should take stock of our own departments, of ourselves. Are we inviting integration, or can we honestly defend ourselves against it?
No one can blame officials for attempting to effect economies, which the combining of departments suggests, though may not actually produce. Nor can we argue too hard that a fireman’s time is his own between runs; though there are times when rest and relaxation are justifiably essential.
Nor can we condem the opinions of those who appear to be quite well satisfied with their own integrated police and fire organizations. Of course we don’t hear from those where the plan has failed… and there are such.
Many in the fire service will take issue with the statement that firemen and policemen can be overtrained; that specialization, except for a relatively few positions, in a department is inefficient and not in the public interest. In fact, it would appear that the opposite is true insofar as a small fire organization is concerned. Men should be thoroughly trained in the operation of apparatus and pumps; they certainly can be trained to make hazard inspections, to assist in getting out fire prevention notices, to participate in company inspection work, hydrant surveys, pre-fire planning studies and in dwelling inspection work in good weather, and with proper communications equipment provided. Today’s small fire department must be well balanced; trained, constantly trained, if it is to cope with today’s problem of fire control and fire prevention. Should not inspection of factory, store, farm and home, for hazard elimination and for pre-planning, be the stock and trade of a fireman’s profession, along with fire control responsibilities?
For those departments who shall permit themselves to be identified as sitting ducks, there’s a potential threat from the integrationists and a passive public who will be “sold” on a siamese twin public safety service. There’s a way to beat the rap, however, if one is interested.
A fire prevention program utilizing all department personnel on company inspection work, company and combined drills, mutual aid practices (not just paper work, but planned, frequent exercises and planned, printed running cards) will keep you so busy there won’t be time for integration and your own public and your officials will be able to appreciate why.
You who are participating in such work are too busy for integration, too busy to be policemen even for an hour; and you who are planning your department operations around vigorous, continuous training, fire control, fire prevention and mutual aid operations will likewise have more than you can do with one-half of your community’s public safety problems to deal with— and a big half at that!
If you and I know that the fire service is a full time job in our respective communities, and it IS, then let’s make it that. Let’s show our public, sell our public, make our public and our officials realize—by our performance—that our fire departments and our firemen are not organizations of sitting ducks, but organizations dedicated to and with ambition for community safety service on a level certainly equal to, if not exceeding, that of other municipal services.
Performance leaves no loopholes for integrated public safety services.