Iowa FD reorganization trades traditional FF positions for PSOs
The Cedar Falls City Council approved a controversial fire department plan to transition to one that includes cross-trained public safety officers
By Laura French
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — An Iowa city council vote approved the reorganization of the city’s fire department, which will replace traditional firefighter positions with cross-trained public safety officers (PSOs).
Since 2014, all new hires have been required to receive cross-training to become PSOs, according to The Courier. The new model, approved by a 5-2 vote at Thursday’s special meeting, would eliminate traditional firefighter positions altogether, requiring current firefighters to become PSOs.
The PSO program has received blowback from the city’s fire union, which cites on its Facebook page several incidents where it says PSOs, who also work as police officers, were not available to help at fires and emergencies.
In an editorial in The Courier, Cedar Falls Firefighters Local 1366 President Scott Dix said while the city’s public safety budget has increased, minimum firefighter staffing has decreased, and 14 firefighters have resigned or retired due to safety concerns since the PSO program began.
“Being a professional firefighter requires a specialization of skills and knowledge, as does being a police officer. These two careers share very few of the same skills and abilities,” Dix wrote. “Combining police and fire professions yields a responder that is, at best, mediocre.”
Both opponents and supporters of the proposal spoke before the vote, with Council Member Mark Miller saying the new model will help resolve conflicts between firefighters and PSOs.
“We have a situation right now where everybody’s safety is in danger because these two groups won’t work together,” Miller said during the special meeting.
Resident Kelly Dunn also spoke out in support, saying she feels confident that qualified responders would be able to help her in an emergency under the new plan.
The city said it will help current firefighters receive the needed training or assist them in pursuing other positions in the city.