Public Safety has trouble filling dual-role positions - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Public Safety has trouble filling dual-role positions

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September 21, 2007

Bainbridge-- It's a unique roll public safety officers play.  "We're a policemen when we come to work," says Bainbridge Public Safety Chief Larry Funderburke.  But, he says, it can change in a second.  "If we get a call from 911 to respond to a fire, we go."

Public Safety officers might be out patrolling as police officers but are always prepared with their fire equipment in the trunk of their car in case they have to respond to a fire call.  Officers at the station bring the fire truck right behind them.

But because many of them are already out patrolling, their response times are incredibly low.  "I think last year we had less than 2 minutes response times to all fires," said Funderburke.  City Manager Chris Hobby added, "In about 90%, a little more maybe of the cases, the fire is out by the time we get the apparatus on the scene."

While the advantages sound great, its hard to come by someone willing and capable to do both jobs, and that's where problems surface.   "Its harder when you do both, you got people who want to be a fireman, but they don't want to be a policeman. You got policemen that don't want to be firemen," said Funderburke. 

One idea had been to hire a limited number of people certified in just one of the fields but the city council decided against it.  "Pretty soon it would get easier and easier to justify adding more of those positions and eventually even though you didn't intend it to happen, you're operating 2 departments so it's a slippery slope," Hobby said.

But with Bainbridge continuing to grow, and 6 positions sitting vacant, the city must find another way to fill them.  "We need to continuously look at our pay, make sure we are competitive, we do compensate that our folks really are performing 2 jobs, and we also need to look at our recruiting methods," explained Hobby. 

Meanwhile these officers will continue to wear both uniforms and be ready to switch hats at a moment's notice.  In total, Bainbridge public safety has 54 staff positions, 44 of those are performing dual roles.  Even their investigators double as firefighters when needed.

 

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