City Manager: Jackson Public Safety Vote About Priorities

By: Alex Goldsmith Email
By: Alex Goldsmith Email

Jackson firefighter Tom Loveberry has more than 2 decades of experience in Jackson's Fire Department. He's not so sure about the idea of a public safety model for Jackson's future.

"Let's say for example that it's summer and a child breaks his leg," said Loveberry. "If a police officer shows up first, he'd care for the child until maybe a call comes up from the other side of town about a shooting. We think he'll lose his focus with that patient because he wants to be a cop and he'll want to go where the action is."

But Loveberry says he doesn't want Jackson voters to vote no because a public safety department would be a good thing or a bad thing.

"It's the fact that there's no plan," said Loveberry. "The City Council admits there's no plan and you can't eliminate 500 years of experience in the fire department and say it's a good thing for the city."

The charter amendment before voters does not immediately create a public safety department in Jackson, it simply allows City Council to create one if it deems it necessary.

According to Jackson city manager Warren Renando, Tuesday's vote isn't about saving money and it's not about saving positions. In the first year a public safety department could even cost more because of additional training required, and Renando says total layoffs will be the same either way.

Renando says Tuesday's vote is a chance to dictate the city's future public safety priorities.

"We are going to lay off police officers and firefighters no matter what," said Renando. "Now with half of the fire department and 25 percent of the police department going away because of the budget crisis you have to decide in the future, where do you want to place the emphasis in the budget?"

Renando says a vote for a public safety department would emphasize more police officers for Jackson while a vote against emphasizes more firefighters for Jackson.

"I think it's a hard choice. [Some] people who say you'll be better at both, but no, I don't think you'll be better at both police and fire services," said Renando. "What this is is choosing between the 40,000 police calls and 4,000 fire calls."

The charter amendment goes to Jackson voters Tuesday.

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