EDITORIAL: Questions, no answers
Many questions remain about the City of Clinton's decision to disband its Public Safety Department, in favor of having separate Police and Fire Departments.
The city has circulated a video showing firefighters in action, but has refused to say when the video was shot, by whom and what it is supposed to show.
The city has not yet responded to The Clinton Chronicle requests for information under the SC Freedom of Information Act. Among the requests is information about how the Police Chief and the Fire Chief will be paid, and how the city is paying for an Interim Fire Chief.
Still, the action is done, because some people wanted it done. Fine. Police and Fire service in the City of Clinton will not "go to pot," because the city council will not stand for that. If there is not substantial upgrading in crimes solves and fires put out quickly, we fully expect - no, we demand - the city council ask, "Why?"
If separate Police and Fire Departments are "the answer," why aren't our numbers better in terms of response times and numbers of crimes solved. The city council will demand these answers, we are sure of it.
Nine public entities in South Carolina have Public Safety Departments (according to the Post & Courier newspaper). Now that Clinton is leaving "the nine," and rejoining the majority that pays police officers and firefighters on different salary scales, we turn our attention to recruitment and retention.
Certainly, we need a Police Reserve and a Fire Reserve, for interested people who want to serve in volunteer capacities in these roles. We also need to be sure that we are actively recruiting fire-women, not just firemen.
Public Safety in South Carolina is a mixed bag on success. Less than two decades into its "experiment," Clinton won't know if it works or not. City Council has been told the Department of Public Safety had grown in budget by 12% since its inception and its staff had grown by 20%
From a spending standpoint, that’s over the course of 13 years - 12% over 13 years, less than the rate of inflation. Pretty good money-management by our standards.
If staffing were the city council’s concern, it could have capped the number of employees at the present 42 and declared a hiring freeze - no one is hired unless someone else leaves. Simple.
No, staffing and money were not the issues here. Some other force was at work. A force that we do not understand and - by gosh - we better not question.