Public Safety Debate

By: Jamie Edmonds Email
By: Jamie Edmonds Email

For the past thirty years, Blackman Township has been in the public safety business - meaning they don't have a police department and a fire department - they have both rolled into one.

"Instead of traditional police and fire departments, the public safety officers are cross-certified, meaning they carry their fire equipment in the back of their vehicles," Blackman Township Supervisor Dan Hawkins said. "When the situation arises, they gear up and get to work."

It works for the them, said the township supervisor, and in his opinion, it's the most efficient way of doing things.

"Instead of being a firefighter where there is inherent down time, we are able to have PSO officers out in the community serving residents at all times in both disciplines," Hawkins said.

The city of Kalamazoo turned to a public safety model around the same time as Blackman Township did. The Kalamazoo Public Safety Assistant Chief tells News Ten it works for them too because they pay fewer people who can handle every situation.

Ionia, Albion, and Oak Park have public safety departments, plus a whole host of other communities in Michigan are considering them, including Jackson who will put it before voters in May.

A criticism from some is even if it saves money, will the same number of people be available to save lives?

Hawkins said yes, the same level of service is provided, just in a different way.

"They key right now is there's a lack of understanding of what public safety is all about it," he said.

Residents in Jackson have that time now, Hawkins said, to learn about how public safety works and decide if it's the best for their city.

"Whatever they do directly affects us," he said, "which is why we're watching really closely."

Meridian Township is another location that went to a public safety department years ago, but switched back to the traditional model. The township supervisor said Tuesday he didn't want to comment on this story because Meridian Township and the city of Jackson are too different to compare.


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