New leadership role defined for Rockford Safety Department
by BETH ALTENA
A “milestone development” in a new structure designed to save the City of Rockford and its residents over $200,000 annually took place Monday, July 9 during the regular Rockford City Council meeting. Three employees were promoted to the position of lieutenant and placed as leaders in their respective divisions of the Department of Public Safety.
Rockford recently implemented a merger of staff trained to respond to emergencies—cross training former Departments of Public Works (DPW), Police and Fire to respond to fire calls and other emergencies. The merger is an unusual response to a decrease in funding that all municipalities are currently facing and which will sharply fall again if the Personal Property Tax is eliminated, according to City Manager Michael Young. Young said the idea to cross train staff was thoroughly considered prior to the gradual implementation of the new structure.
Former Police Chief Dave Jones, now head of the combined Department of Public Safety, said, “I feel like a proud dad tonight.”
Former fire captain Dan Vincent, Officer Dave Robinson, former DPW director Jamie Davies and officer Mike Miller all accepted promotions to lieutenant and leadership of their respective divisions within the new Department of Public Safety.
Vincent will lead the paid on-call firefighters for the City of Rockford; Davies will continue his leadership of the Department of Public Works staff, who are now trained firefighters; and Lt. Robinson and Miller will together lead the combined police and firefighting staff, who also are or will be cross trained as police and firefighters.
The merger is unique to Rockford, where staff developed the model to make best use of men and women who are already working for the City. All DPW workers were first trained as firefighters. This saves the City money because staff already out maintaining the City, hanging the banners, working on parks, and doing the other jobs required in town, are now trained to respond to emergencies.
The restructuring, described as a merger of three formerly distinct divisions of police, fire and DPW, has been working flawlessly for several months. Currently full-time firefighter Robert Berkstressor is attending a police academy, after which he will be both a trained firefighter and police officer. (Watch upcoming issues of the Squire for that story.)
Former Police Chief Dave Jones, likewise, completed fire training to be fully qualified as both a police officer and a firefighter. He joked that he never imagined, at this stage in his career, that he would be hauling hoses and climbing ladders.
All of the cross training of staff has taken place while regular duties required to keep the City running smoothly continued unabated without additional staff. City employees all made this possible, forgoing taking time off or vacations during the months-long training process.
Jones warmly recognized the high level of professionalism represented by the four new lieutenants. He noted that Mike Miller was, on July 9—that very day—enjoying the anniversary of his employment with the City 22 years prior.
Jones called Robinson “the fastest rising star in law enforcement in the state of Michigan.” Jones said Robinson has worked tirelessly in his duties and, among other honors, was appointed president of the Crime Prevention Association of Michigan.
Davies was already leading the DPW team for the City, which Jones recognized as a tremendous responsibility. During the meeting, Davies was complimented for his part in recent road work, which, for safety reasons, took place sometimes overnight, with staff working all night long to get the job done.
Vincent was also recognized for long and admirable service to the City as a firefighter. He brings a wealth of expertise, knowledge and service as he steps up to lead the on-call firefighters for the City.
Jones said, “On behalf of council, we would like to congratulate our new lieutenants.”