Jackson Considers Public Safety Department

By: Jamie Edmonds Email
By: Jamie Edmonds Email

In Jackson there is the fire department and there's the police department, but the two could become one if an idea by the city manager becomes a reality.

Warren Renando explains it this way: He has to come up with $2 million to fill the budget this year. He can either lay off 15 firefighters and six police officers to get there, or he can eliminate the fire department and hire ten new police officers cross trained to fight crime and fires. Then, the rest of the police department would be similarly trained.

You can imagine what the firefighters think of the idea.

"Usually police officers want to be police officers and firefighters want to be firefighters, " Tom Loveberry said. "It's ridiculous, a heart surgeon and a brain surgeon don't do the same operation. We shouldn't be doing two jobs."

Firefighter and Union Representative Tom Loveberry said response times will most definitely increase which means service for residents will as well.

"If I'm a public safety officer, and someone stabs you, do I treat you or chase after the crook? I can't do both," he said.

The Jackson Police Chief and the police union representative said they're open to the idea. It's better than the alternative, they said.

"Because of the budget, you are making choices," Chief Matt Heins said. "You either reduce the fire, and reduce the police, or you combine them and provide the best service you can to the community."

Details on how it could work are still up in the air. Union Rep. Shane LaPorte admits not all police officers are on-board, but most are willing to try.

"We have a highly trained workforce that could learn if they needed to," he said.

Right now the 'public safety department' is only an idea. Ultimately the decision could be left up to voters in May.

The City Manager will be asking the city council to vote Tuesday at their meeting to approve the proposal. If they do, voters could see it on the May 3rd ballot.

If this process does not pass, then Renando said he will have to lay off both police and firefighters to balance the budget.

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