Police-Fire Consolidation Resurfaces
The Editor’s Opinion Page
One of the offshoots of Proposition 13 is a revival of interest (by city officials) in police-fire consolidation. This, despite the fact that consolidation has never really worked wherever it was given a fair trial—notably in Peoria, Ill., and Daytona Beach, Fla., where it was eventually dropped.
Under the consolidation concept, the duties of a policeman and a fire fighter are merged in whole or in part. Usually, the fire fighter (who would only be sitting around doing nothing anyway) rides a patrol car—complete with gun and handcuffs—and performs the functions of a policeman. Until a fire alarm comes in over his radio! Then he takes off to the Fire, complete with turnout gear and an assortment of first-aid fire appliances, while changing his role en route. Policemen (who would only be driving around in a patrol car doing nothing anyway) are subject to the same role changes.
Proponents of consolidation make the claim that consolidation can increase the efficiency of public safety functions while reducing the budget (actually reducing manpower). To which we say, “Bunk!” Fire fighters and policemen are the same in that they are service-oriented people. But there the resemblance ends. There is something in the mental makeup of a fire fighter that makes him not want to be a policeman. The same holds true for a policeman not wanting to be a fire fighter. Proof of this can be found in our larger cities where policemen and fire fighters regularly swap badges. So, in our opinion, the merging of police and fire forces can only bring on a reduction in morale with a consequent reduction in efficiency.
On the practical side, one city found that consolidation resulted in the loss of the team-fire company concept, reduced the level of fire fighting expertise, eliminated fire prevention and pre-fire planning activities, increased equipment and personnel downtime, increased disability and retirement costs, and decreased morale. Not so surprisingly, this city found that consolidation increased rather than decreased costs. And after five years the city fathers decided to deconsolidate with fire fighters transferred back to the fire stations where they belong.
So, lets remember that a “policeman’s lot is not a happy one,” and neither is a fireman’s, especially when both are subject to consolidation. Putting them together doesn’t seem to save much money either.