by BETH ALTENA “It was a challenge, especially being older. If I was in my twenties like everyone else in the class, it would have been easier,” Bob Berkstresser, 51, made the statement about a grueling 16-week, 594-hour police training academy. Berkstresser just completed the class, allowing him to join the ranks of Rockford’s relatively new Department of Public Safety as a fully trained firefighter and police officer. City Manager Michael Young described the achievement by saying, “This is one of the significant milestones we have accomplished as we move to the ultimate phase-in of the consolidation at the end of the year.” Young was talking about the consolidation of police and fire first responder with Department of Public Works employees also cross-trained as first responders. At a rollover accident in Rockford on August 22, there were 15 first responders on the scene helping to extricate a driver pinned in a rollover vehicle. The training of City of Rockford employees to take advantage of existing staff in a variety of emergency situations is the goal Young, Police Chief Dave Jones and Fire Chief Mike Reus had in mind when they planned the merger. “The majority of our calls take place between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. so it only makes sense that the Department of Public Works people trained to respond to fire, police and medical,” said Berkstresser. Berkstresser said it will be a challenge for the multi-trained staff to keep up on all ongoing training that is required, since fire, medical and police all have different ongoing training requirements. For example, this week Berkstresser has to attend a two-day conference required to maintain his certification as a fire inspector. Berkstressor said the police academy, offered by Grand Valley State University over a 16-week period, wasn’t easy. A firefighter for Rockford since 1992, Berkstresser found himself learning a whole new set of skills. Prior to joining Rockford as firefighter he was an employee of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department. Berkstresser included among his recent training, law, defense tactics, firearms training, physical fitness and training, court procedures, report writing, field sobriety testing, Operating While Under the Influence testing, emergency vehicle operations, high risk felony stops, domestic violence training, role playing scenarios for a […]
Rockford Department of Public Safety
The Rockford Department of Public Safety (DPS) responded to several business break-ins the morning of Saturday, June 2. Rockford DPS would like to remind all business owners that it is important to report all break-ins and attempted break-ins immediately, even if it appears nothing was taken. If you see any suspicious activity, report it immediately by calling 911 or the Rockford DPS’ non-emergency number (616) 866-9557. If you have information regarding this crime or another, contact the Rockford DPS at (616) 866-9557 or Silent Observer at (616) 774-2345.
by CINDY M. CRANMER Thousands of people joined together at Rockford’s Relay for Life to raise money to fight cancer, to celebrate survival from the disease or to remember a loved one who lost their battle to cancer. Area residents could show their support in a variety of ways from raising pledges for walking to temporarily coloring their hair a bright color, painting their face, playing Plinko or other games, enjoying fresh squeezed lemonade, eating food items and baked goods, buying a variety of products, bidding on items at silent auctions or attending one of the ceremonies. The $347,958.72 raised will be used by the American Cancer Society in the fight against cancer. The 10th Annual Rockford Relay for Life began at 3 p.m. on Friday, May 18 and concluded on Saturday, May 19 after 24 hours. According to Shannon Ouellette—who served as committee chair for the first nine years and currently is on the committee as well as the City of Rockford and Rockford Schools liaison—the individual team that raised the most money was Team Terminatin’ Cancer. Their team raised $22,000. Some people supported the Relay for Life by walking and gathering pledges or by making purchases with donations going to the American Cancer Society. Others just came out to support walkers or survivors or just as a show of support for the 24-hour walk that also serves as an awareness opportunity. Deb Pomarius, one of the co-captains of the East Rockford Middle School (ERMS) team, was busy selling used books, duct tape creations such as wallets, cell phone cases and hair bows made by students Karlee Kaminga and Kaitlyn Schovey as well as jewelry made by Kim Klaes Jewelry, which donated several pieces, and other items. ERMS was among the dozens of teams that had a tent at the event. Teams ranged from schools to businesses, to friends putting together a team to honor someone who lost their battle to cancer, to teams supporting a friend fighting cancer, to those who just wanted to do their part in the battle against the disease. Brett Riebschleger, a seventh-grader at East Rockford Middle School, was among the 95 people who registered to walk for 24 hours. He was walking as he had a friend who […]
All full-time DPW, police now qualified firefighters, medical responders by BETH ALTENA The writing was on the wall when Rockford was forced to lay off one of the city’s full-time firefighters two years ago. When police Lieutenant Scott Mazur retired a year ago, his position was not filled. With revenues to the city in a continual decline in recent years due to reduced state revenue sharing, declining property values and a flat new construction economy, and other financial concerns, unusual measures were called for. “This is a significant change—a different service model to provide more efficient services and savings,” said former Rockford Chief of Police Dave Jones, who now has a new enhanced role and title as Chief of the Department of Public Safety, overseeing both law enforcement and firefighters. Jones said Rockford City Manager Michael Young and he came up with a bold new plan to maintain services to the citizens of Rockford in a more efficient way. It called for months of training of all Rockford police officers and also all Department of Public Services employees to become certified medical responders and firefighters. No one else in the state of Michigan has a model like this. “It is a whole new structure,” said Jones. Since April 7, all medical calls for assistance have been answered by law enforcement officers, who have undergone the months of training needed to qualify for their new role. Their patrol vehicles have all been outfitted to also serve as first responder medical units. At the conclusion of this plan, Chief Reus will be the fire marshal, one firefighter will be crossed trained as a police officer and assigned to the enforcement division, and one position will be eliminated sometime next year. This will restructure the fire service division to have only paid on-call firefighters with no full-time city employees assigned to just the fire service. With the new plan, all enforcement division and public services division employees will be considered full-time firefighters. Savings to the city come from on-duty law enforcement responding to medical and fire calls during the night rather than paid on-call firefighters. In addition, training can take place during the workday rather than in overtime hours in the evening. The model includes a complete restructuring […]