Jackson voters will be asked next Tuesday if they want to merge their city police and fire departments. It’s a decision that is dividing the southern Michigan city. Jackson, like many Michigan cities, is struggling to balance its budget. Tuesday’s vote to create a public safety department is a result of that.
Interim City Manager Warren Renando says Tuesday’s vote is about better allocating what little money the city has left to spend.
"You don’t essentially save much money," Renando says. "But what you do do is put the money that you do have where you feel there is the most need.”
Renando says Jackson’s police department responds to 10 times as many calls as the city’s fire department. The merger plan would eliminate most of the city’s fire department and turn the jobs over to police officers.
Tom Loveberry is with the city firefighters union. He says police officers are not adequately experienced to be firefighters.
“Every occupation you go to…you’re not brand new …and be good at what you do,” Loveberry says.
If Jackson voters say no to a merged public safety department, the city manager says police and firefighter layoffs will still come.
Today, Jackson announced it will lay off seven police officers on Monday. The department has eliminated 10 positions since the first of the year.
Flint and Lansing are also holding controversial public safety elections on May 3.