Rockford City Manager Michael Young announced the Rockford Police and Fire departments will merge and become Rockford Department of Public Safety beginning January 1, 2012. Young will act as the Director of Public Safety during the transition with current Police Chief Dave Jones and Mike Reus handling the daily operations of their respective divisions.
“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,” said Young. “This is exactly what we did several years ago when we cross-trained our Department of Public Services employees to be trained firefighters. 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. 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 first phase of the public safety merger will involve cross-training the police officers with fire training. Five members of the Police Department, including Chief Jones, will attend a Fire Training Academy located in Big Rapids beginning in January of 2012. Chief Jones stated, “I am looking forward to the training and the new challenges ahead.” Jones said he and his department have fully embraced the idea of a Public Safety Department. “In our current economy, anything we can do to become more efficient will ultimately result in financial sustainability.”
Upon completion of the fire training in January, all full-time police officers will be qualified to provide traditional police, fire and medical response services. Rockford’s part-time police officers will receive medical training to prepare the Police Department for the final transition to public safety in January of 2013.
“The twelve-month transition period will allow the Department to make critical adjustments while developing the most efficient public safety model for the City,” said Young.
Fire Chief Mike Reus agrees with the ambitious plan. “We owe it to o ur residents to explore any options that will improve services in the City of Rockford,” he said.