Rockford decides to take a big step

December 5, 2011
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The new year will bring changes to the city of Rockford when it begins merging its fire and police departments into a new Department of Public Safety. The transition will start Jan. 1 and take a year to complete.

“We have studied this issue for some time and believe by cross training our employees, we can take advantage of existing resources to enhance our capabilities. This is exactly what we did several years ago when we cross-trained our Department of Public Works employees to be trained firefighters,” said City Manager Michael Young, who will serve as the director of public safety during the transition.

“I feel that this consolidation will make our public safety functions more efficient while saving money, with an actual increase in service to the community,” Young added. “We are feeling enormous financial pressure to look at all aspects of our operations differently, and this is sound public policy for a community such as ours.”

The merger’s first phase involves providing the city’s police officers with fire training. Rockford Police Chief Dave Jones said he and his officers are looking forward to the training sessions and his office has fully embraced the idea of establishing the new department, which he expects will result in financial sustainability for the city of 5,700 residents.

When the fire training is completed next month, Young said all members of the city’s police force will be qualified to provide traditional police, fire and medical response services. The city’s part-time police officers also will receive medical training in time for the final transition, which is set for January 2013.

“The 12-month transition period will allow the department to make critical adjustments while developing the most efficient public safety model for the city,” said Young.

During the transition, Jones and Rockford Fire Chief Mike Reus will continue to handle the daily operations of their respective departments. “We owe it to our residents to explore any options that would improve services in the city of Rockford,” said Reus.

Rockford will become the second city in Kent County to make the change once the transition is completed. East Grand Rapids was the first to move to a single public safety department in 1985.

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