Cities across the country are moving to cross-train police and firefighters to share duties as a way to trim budgets in tough financial times.

The Detroit News this month reported that numerous Michigan communities, including several Detroit suburbs have combined public safety forces in recent years.

The western Michigan city of Kalamazoo, which, with 75,000 people is about the same size as Evanston, is the largest community in the state that’s gone to a combined public safety department.

Leonard Matarese, a research with the International City/Council Management Association, told the paper Kalamzaoo saves $3 million to $4 million a year with the combined service.

Some consolidations have focused on giving police the paramedic training that most firefighters already have, while others have also included training police to fight fires.

The newspaper says fire unions have generally strongly opposed such consolidations, while police have been more receptive.

Governing magazine says police-fire combinations “are nothing new” and some communities have started expanding the concept to cross train public works and parks department workers as firefighters.

Evanston officials, while they say they’re examining a wide array of potential cost-saving measures in an effort to close multi-million-dollar budget gaps over the next two years, have not yet proposed such combined job duites here.

Should Evanston consider cross-training police and firefighters as a cost-saving measure?online survey

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. polling is a complicated thing

    While polls are interesting, a great deal of care needs to be taken in their design and some careful analysis is required when looking at results. If this isn't done, the results don't mean much, if anything.

    The greatest cause for poll skepticism is not knowing anything about who is taking the poll. In this case, are all those participating Evanstonians? Are police and fire department employees answering and in what proportion? Are kids taking the poll? Are poll takers taxpayers? How many are union members? Does anyone taking the poll have any experience with the sharing of services the poll claims to be about? Many, many factors can skew polls in one direction or another. Professional poll takers go to great lengths to get a representative sample and, even then, can be wrong.

    Beyond the characteristics of those taking the poll, the way questions are phrased is very important. At the simplest level, in this poll, there is one affirmative, one undecided and 3 negatives. Confining "yes" to one selection while distributing "no" among three spreads dissent out. Someone looking quickly at poll results could easily overestimate the "yes" response, not realizing that three responses, not just the one that begins with the word "no" need to be added together to get the "no" total.

    Caution advised!

  2. Interesting concept cross training of public safety workers

    Why isn't Wally considering this idea?  At his budget presentation recently he stated there would be no changes to the police and fire departments, even though they make up 40% of the budget.  He also added the water department to the list.

    With this type of selective management we will continue to move into deeper debt.  Of course where is the leadership out of the Mayor, today in Chicago the Mayor stated he would layoff 600 employees to balance the budget.  Is our Mayor taking any active role in the budget, other than she is running to Washington asking for funds for a clinic?

    Cross training makes a lot sense for the paramedic function, the police can move much faster than the large fire department trucks, since minutes count, they can stabilize someone faster than the fire department.

    The world is changing, providing city services like they were done, 10, 20 and 50 years ago makes no sense, other than to protect special interest groups is not in the tax payers interest.


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