Our Readers Write Us
To the Editor:
The City of Fremont, Calif., on July 26, 1956, adopted a budget which included the provision for a partial “FirePolice Integration” program. It required the immediate purchase of three station wagons equipped for local fire service, partial police service and an emergency conversion to ambulance service.
Firemen below the rank of officer were to rotate and circulate about the city six hours a day in accordance with a policeestablished time schedule. They were to issue traffic tickets, speeding citations; inspect business licenses and building permits; and engage in whatever fire service activities they could in the remaining time. These men were called public safety officers.
The writer, the only council member to disapprove of the action, vigorously opposed the assigning to firemen of any duties other than fire. The very suggestion that some way be found to “utilize the manpower of firemen” implied that firemen in toto were “timewasters” and tax-eaters.”
This original premise is not accepted by the writer. On the other hand, the very fact that the charge has been made has created a challenge to fire chiefs to prove that it is false.
On April 8 of this year, the voters of Fremont rejected the then mayor and mayor pro-tem, who had approved integration and elected two candidates who had included in their campaigns the specific promise to repeal the program. This the city council did on May 13, with the writer voting with the two new councilmen, and the two hold-over councilmen voting “no.”
A small group supporting the two retired candidates attempted to defeat the repeal. The argument presented indicated only too clearly in what low esteem firemen are held by these people. This group was supported by others although it is felt that the actual reason for such support is the appalling lack of knowledge on the part of the lay public as to what service a modern fire department does render.
An example of this is taken from the daily press, May 23, 1958, which listed as one of the “extra” duties proposed by the city manager for the firemen the following; “The manager and the fire chief will decide how often and the number of men to be used in the fire inspection program.” Extra duties for firemen?
Another example from the newspapers, dated May 29, 1958, under the heading “Compromise Leaves Some PSO Duties with City Firemen,” “Five firemen to continue with present fire prevention duties, such as checking hydrants, burning permits . . .”
And further a quotation by the former mayor in the press of May 22, 1958, under the heading, “Axing PSOs Said Manpower Waste by Overacker”: “We voted to throw out something which was accomplishing much more with manpower than we’ll get otherwise.” He cited 1,698 burning permits, 61 faulty hydrants.
Such comment is unbelievable, except upon the premise that he simply doesn’t know that issuing fire permits and checking hydrants are normal fire service duties.
Another press report on May 23, 1958, implied the action would mean the necessity of employing two more men. Actually it will cost the city no more and will strongly alleviate the economic stringency of this year’s budget by giving the fire chief 18 more man-hours to deploy to the best advantage of the fire department.
This addition to manpower and freedom of deployment from a police-set schedule will be the first immediate improvement of efficiency to be realized by the council’s action when it takes effect on July 1.
Among other advantages, the fire chief will be able to improve his resuseitator service. During the past two years response to an emergency call of this nature had to be delayed until a public service officer returned to the fire station, often from a distance of five miles, picked up the unit, oxygen tanks, etc., and proceeded to the location.
The mere changing of the name “public safety officer” to “fireman” will result in better fire insurance rate credit for the citizens of the community. The elimination of these officers will also remove a sense of false security.
Although armed with weapons, they were under written instructions never to become involved in a criminal incident. Most citizens did not know that these men were only pseudo-officers. They will, of course, be replaced by full-fledged police officers—an immediate improvement in our police efficiency.
With the above, Fremont adds her name to the many California cities who have rejected fire-police integration because it is more costly and less efficient. The claim has been constantly made that Fremont never had true integration. To the writer’s knowledge, definition of the degrees of integration has never been adopted.
The idea of integration is a gross insult to both fire and police, carrying as it does the implication that neither service is a whole man’s job, but instead, a halfjob kind of profession. It is shocking that anyone should take this attitude about two “life and death” services. It is even more shocking that the two services should be made the butt of politicians. We are proud of the fact that a large majority of the voters of Fremont rejected the implication.
Winifred H. Bendel
Councilman and Mayor Pro-Tem Fremont, Calif.
To the Editor:
I wish to tell you how much I appreciated the cordial hospitality accorded to me by your organization during the recent International Fire Chiefs conference. My knowledge of fire fighting techniques and administration has been greatly enhanced through your most valuable assistance.
Allow me to reiterate this department’s gratitude for your help, as well as my personal appreciation for your very courteous and efficient reception.
Primo D. Cordeta, Jr.
Chief, Fire Department