BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Battle Creek and a national nonprofit are conducting a study that could change their public safety model in how emergency services look and operate.
“This is not a Battle Creek-specific issue,” City Manager Rebecca Fleury said. “These are things that our neighbors are feeling in our region, in our state and nationwide.”
Fleury said Battle Creek’s police, fire and contracted EMS operations are facing unprecedented times when it comes to staffing, available financial resources and what they are describing as “changes in calls for service.”
“The majority of calls the fire department goes on are medical. We are seeing ambulance reports from LifeCare that don’t necessarily meet the desired thresholds for the contract between us because they’re short-staffed and they’re trying to cover a very large area,” Fleury explained. “Then from the police side, we know that … a great number of calls for service that they get are unrelated to law enforcement. They’re more related to mental health issues.”
Earlier this year, the city of Battle Creek hired the Center for Public Safety Management to study options on how their emergency services could branch and operate differently. Fleury assures city leaders have an open mind with no pre-conceived notions on which suggestions could stem from it, ranging from no changes to a possible consolidated public safety department.
“When you talk about a public safety model, that’s basically a cross-trained public safety officer in both police and fire,” Fleury said. “But there are other public safety models that are all around us. There could just be a public safety administration … public safety director, chiefs of police and fire. … There’s a whole bunch of other hybrids.”
Joseph Pozzo is one manager leading the study for the center. Among the many data-driven factors, he explains the comprehensive study investigates call response times, workload, the area labor force, national standard requirements and community risk assessment.
“That’s where you start to drive: is a public safety department good for our community, or do we have such building risks or other risks that it is better to have a separate police and fire department?” Pozzo said. “It really depends on the community, what the risks are and what the workload is.”
The study is not expected to be done until at least early spring 2023. Fleury adds that citizens will be able to provide their input on the matter before the final report and any ensuing decisions made by city leaders.