Effective Immediately, Clinton has a Police Department and a Fire Department
Clinton City Council voted 5-2 Wednesday morning during a special called meeting to dissolve the Department of Public Safety. Council members Danny Cook and Shirley Jenkins voted against the motion, saying they wanted more information and more time to consider the change. The ordinance, given first reading Aug. 9 during another special called meeting, calls for the city to return to separate police and fire departments. There is no effective date included in the ordinance, but the ordinance says the “Department of Public Safety is hereby dissolved.” Unlike the Aug. 9 meeting, council set aside time for public discussion before hearing a presentation by City Manager Bill Ed Cannon, who had proposed doing away with DPS. Council heard four people speak against the ordinance — most of them opposing the manner in which the change was being made — and one spoke in favor of returning to separate fire and police departments. (See separate story in this issue.) During his presentation, Cannon quoted extensively from a report recently conducted by Interim Fire Chief Phillip Russell of Union. DPS Director Robin Morse said later he had not seen the report until after the meeting — when he was given a copy by a city council member. Cannnon has been city manager since January. He has 22 years experience as a city manager, he said, and was involved in an extensive study of public safety while in Kentucky. “It became apparent public safety does not work,” he said. “I’m not here to hammer anyone about the lack of certification.” He later said neither Morse nor Fire Division Commander Scott Shiflet were adequately trained to lead the department. “We have a problem with training and certification,” Cannon said. “The public safety director doesn’t have fire fighter training, yet he’s leading both (divisions). He’s a policeman, not a fire fighter. Our fire commander is not trained as a fire fighting officer. It’s obvious why we have a problem.” After the meeting, Morse said he has taken fire fighter training in-house, which he said is completely legal and is done by many fire departments in the state. He said he has not taken the test for the course at the state fire academy so that he can become certified. Morse said it’s his understanding that the fire academy doesn’t certify anyone. “They provide the training” for people who are then certified by their own fire department. The director said if the city manager had asked him to take the test so he could become certified, he would have. During his presentation, Cannon said he estimates it will take between six months and a year to fully implement a plan to have two separate departments. He said no positions will be eliminated. “(The separation) will place personnel where they need to be, which we do not have today.” He said several times, the fire department will need to add more manpower. Morse said he requested two additional employees in the current city budget, but was turned down. Cannon was asked after the meeting how many new fire fighters would be hired and how much it would cost the city. “It would be premature for me to try and answer at this time as I stated in the meeting this morning we will be going through a transition period which will take some time,” he said. “There is much need for improvement,” Cannon said during his presentation. “There will be more training. There will be opportunity for everyone to be certified.” The city manager said dual-trained officers will be grandfathered in the new plan. Morse said the state’s Criminal Justice Academy will not allow a full-time employee of a fire department to retain his or her police officer certification. “That’s not my rule,” the director said. “That’s the academy’s.” “Our most immediate need is for fire fighters,” Cannon said. He said the fire department needs an organizational chart and a set of written policies and procedures. Once separate, he said, fire fighters will receive more training, more certification and more drilling. Cannon told council that Morse has said “the system is already internally separated. Why should we not officially separate (the two departments)?’ The patrol staff is not supporting the fire staff,” the city manager said. “Those are two different professions.” He said the fire commander is “totally overloaded. There is no time to create operational policies. Fire inspections must be done. There is no way the commander can perform 700-800 inspections annually with everything else he must do.” Clinton City Council’s next scheduled meeting is Monday, Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. at the M.S. Bailey Municipal Center.