NATHAN STEPHANY, KV NEWS DIRECTOR
In 2014, Cedar Falls merged its police and fire departments into one joint public safety office. Instead of individual police officers and firefighters, Cedar Falls now has cross trained public safety officers.
This summer, that office received a new building as an official public safety office housing both departments where fire station number two once stood.
“I think the programs definitely been effective. There are people who don’t like the program,” Craig Berte, the assistant director of public safety, said. “They wish we had a traditional fire department and a traditional police department that had nothing to do with each other. But the truth is there are different ways to provide law enforcement and fire protection for your community.”
The response to the merger has been mixed. After the original merger, fourteen firefighters resigned or retired from the department.
The department came under further criticism when a former fire chief said the cross training was unsafe and has led to issues with staffing and emergency response.
“I see the public safety officer model and the cross training sticking around. I see our people gaining more experience, having more efficiencies with it,” Berte said. “One of these efficiencies that we definitely tout is when there is a fire fight that is a public safety officer not actively engaged in something in the firefighter end of the building, they can go to the police end of the building and help with someone trying to report a crime if all the police are out on the street.”
The issue seeped into the recent mayoral race, which had three candidates each with different opinions on the office. Mayor-Elect, Rob Green, said as part of his campaign platform he supports only some aspects of the public safety office and wants to evaluate where the city should move next.