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Posted on Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

City manager: Ypsilanti pursuing hybrid police, fire departments detailed in new report

By Katrease Stafford

Ypsilanti City Manager Ralph Lange says the city will pursue a hybrid model for its police and fire departments to reduce expenses and maintain services, as outlined in a new report from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

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SEMCOG is recommending a hybrid model for the police and fire departments.

The SEMCOG Local Government Effectiveness and Collaboration team examined the two departments to see how the city could improve its services, while being cost effective.

In its report, SEMCOG said if no changes are made, the city will continue to see a decrease in the level of emergency services provided from both departments.

"Personnel will become burned out, the potential of injury increases and morale will continue to fall," SEMCOG wrote. "The overtime that both departments are consuming in order to provide service will cripple the city and take its toll on the employees. This is not a viable option."

The report was sent to Lange, who requested the services and is leading the charge for the re-organization.

"We're looking at Chief (Amy) Walker as a likely candidate to be director of public safety and police chief," he said. "Clearly she knows a lot about public safety."


Ypsilanti Police Chief Amy Walker speaks at a 2010 meeting.

Tom Perkins | file photo

The study led to the organization recommending the city investigate and consider a new hybrid model for providing public safety services similar to the city of Monroe.

What would the hybrid model look like?

Monroe has a full-time fire department, supplemented by trained police officers. Monroe has 12 full-time firefighters under the direction of one chief, along with 32 cross-trained officers. The police department has 56 officers in total.

The hybrid model in Ypsilanti would have separate police and fire departments with an "adequate" number of firefighters to respond to daily service demands.

Under the direction of a new public safety director, there will be a deputy police chief and a deputy fire chief.

This would be coupled with a larger police department that would have a certain number of cross-trained officers that have been trained and equipped to respond to major fire incidents whenever the fire department is busy or on another run.

"It's indicated in the report that there are some creative approaches for police and fire being developed," said SEMCOG Fiscal & Operational Consulting Services representative Dave Boerger. "I think the existing fire and police departments were aware of it (the hybrid model) and were studying it. I think it's getting some traction."

The hybrid model would differ from a full public safety model, such as the one implemented in Kalamazoo, which cross-trains both the police and fire departments.

SEMCOG stated the fire department would be able to retain its skill set and knowledge base of the fire service, retain its own administration and inspection division. However, in terms of response, it would be smaller in size for the number of daily runs firefighters respond to.

This would call for a smaller number of fire personnel as a minimum, which would reduce overtime expenses, but would not necessarily reduce the total number of firefighters below current levels, according to SEMCOG.

Minimum staffing for daily runs and the number for the total force would still need to be determined, though.

With this model, the police department would need to hire additional personnel, and in consort with the fire department, determine the number of cross-trained officers needed.

By reducing minimum staffing in the fire department and increasing officers on the road, it may result in reduced overtime in the police department as well.

Lange said at a recent council meeting that the two departments have incurred between $600,000 and $700,000 worth of overtime in recent years.

Lange reiterated the model will not move forward without union negotiations being completed. The city is currently negotiating both police and fire contracts.

"We're moving in that direction, but it can't be finalized until those contracts are settled," Lange said. "If they're not, then you (may) have a whole different operation. ... You just have to wait and see. In this case, the particulars won't be known until contracts are settled."

Are there alternatives to the hybrid model?

Increasing the level of personnel for both departments to deliver service and reduce overtime would solve a few of the issues, but would prove to be fairly expensive.

"With the economic crisis that has affected Michigan municipalities resulting in devastating loss of tax revenue, hiring personnel in the numbers needed is for many communities, including the city of Ypsilanti, essentially impossible," SEMCOG wrote.

The only way to make this happen, according to SEMCOG, would be a millage directed toward police and fire service, but the city would have to decide if it is a viable option to go before the voters to ask for a tax increase.

Another possible option would be to move forward with a full-fledged public safety department.

A chart obtained by in October showed that possible discussions have taken place regarding the implementation of a full public safety department within the city. The plan that was being considered potentially called for a fire deputy chief, police deputy chief and a director of public safety whose responsibilities would encompass the entire department. All together there would be about 42 employees. Of that number, nearly 20 would be cross-trained public safety officers.

If implemented, Ypsilanti would have been the first city within the county to cross-train police and firefighters.

SEMCOG analyzed the projected costs of this model.

To train an existing police officer to perform fire department functions, the officer would complete the fire academy, become a basic emergency medical technician and obtain a certification in Pre-hospital Trauma Life Support.

To train an existing firefighter to become a police officer, the firefighter would need to complete the police academy at either Washtenaw Community College, or Schoolcraft College. The training costs would be a one-time expense for current employees.

See the chart below for expected costs:


The chart shows the projected costs to cross-train police officers and firefighters.

SEMCOG report

Boerger said SEMCOG is not in favor of this model.

"Converting from standalone departments to a full-fledged safety department has been problematic wherever it's tried," Boerger said. "It's fallen through."

Boerger said SEMCOG is recommending the hybrid model not only because training would cost less since only police would be cross-trained, but he believes the transition would be easier for the city.

"There would be less resistance," Boerger said. "It’s much more easy to implement this. With the full model, that means your existing police and firemen have to be retrained to do the opposite skills which has really been the challenge. This approach is easier because you’re not dismantling the fire department."

Lange said it was never the city's intention to dismantle the fire department or create a full-fledged public safety department.

"That is not what we're talking about," Lange said. "There would still be a police department and fire department. It's a complete and total hybrid."

Why is change needed within the departments?

The Ypsilanti Police Department is currently staffed by 25 sworn officers and four civilians. This represents a decrease from two years ago when the force was made up of 40 sworn officers and nine civilian employees.

SEMCOG said its research showed the reduction in staffing was necessary due to a declining tax revenue, but the reduction has had a major impact on service delivery, department morale and overtime expenses.

The police department accounts for about $5 million of the general fund.

The latest SEMCOG data from 2011 show that with a population of 19,435 people, Ypsilanti has 12.8 officers per 10,000 residents, which is well below the benchmark of 16.

Two years ago, the department had 20.5 officers per 10,000 residents.

The benchmark number of dispatched calls per officer also has been affected. The department handles about 20,000 calls per year, with 800 being handled by each officer. SEMCOG said this is far above the average of 570. When the workforce was at 40 sworn officers, each officer handled about 500 calls.

Currently, of the 25 sworn officers, 18 are dedicated to road patrol. One lieutenant supervises that division, with the remaining sworn personnel being Chief Walker and five employees within the detective bureau.

Road patrol officers work 12-hour shifts, with three on each shift. Walker established a policy of three officers on duty as a minimum to safely handle calls. However, SEMCOG noted that with only three on duty, any time an officer takes a day off, overtime is required.


The fire department also has been faced with budget reductions and cuts. file photo

SEMCOG believes the police department needs more officers on the force and a hybrid model could potentially alleviate the stress on current staff.

"Even if the minimum staffing was supported by the needed buffer, three officers on duty each shift is not sufficient to provide adequate police service without sacrificing basic police service, such as undesignated patrol," SEMCOG wrote in a report. "The chief believes the city should be covered by four officers on the day shift and five officers at night, and based on the call volume, this seems like a reasonable staffing scenario."

Just like the police department, the fire department has been faced with setbacks and budget cuts. The department accounts for $2.5 million of the general fund and has seen a reduction in staff as well. At peak in the 1980s, the department had 35 firefighters. It now has 14 fire personnel as of Jan. 1.

In 2011, the department responded to 600 fire and 1,566 medical emergencies. The average response time was 3 minutes and 47 seconds.

Until October 2012, the department was staffed with five firefighters per shift, but that number has decreased to four per shift. Recently retired fire Chief Jon Ichesco openly expressed concern about the staffing change.

"We're going to have a lot of property loss," he said. "...I've seen it in other departments. Your fires proliferate and what starts small is going to be a large fire."

Boerger said he is confident the city will consider the hybrid model. SEMCOG said in its report that it is clear "something must be done" to stabilize core services for the police and fire departments.

"It can be a great plus for the community," Lange said. "I know it can work. SEMCOG supported that."

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for her at or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.


Mark Richards

Mon, Jan 14, 2013 : 3:53 p.m.

While appearing, at first glance, an exercise of good stewardship and efficiency, decisions such as these have potentially immense social consequences. Blurring the lines of purpose, responsibility, and authority between these two traditionally separate services means that when the fire department responds to your call for help, you must consider the consequences should, for example, you or another person happen to be "illegal". Driving people further underground might well be considered furtherance of a racial policy. And this is just the beginning. How much of the big brother do we need? Years ago one could go to a hospital emergency room, perhaps suffering the consequence of a mistake from illegal drug use, and not worry that they will be turned in. A sobering conversation with your trusted doctor may well be sufficient encouragement to change your life direction. Not so today. Most physicians now serve as enforcement arms for state authority. Hence, one may have to consider whether suffering without help is preferable to suffering as a consequence of getting help. If a proposal be offered it must force police authority to remove the hat and badge when providing other services. Engaging the public with trust, rather than suspicion, must be paramount.

not a billy

Sat, Jan 12, 2013 : 12:13 a.m.

Start the cross training now. The overtime expenses will roll into their pensions, creating something for future politicians to slam those damn public employees who will be draining the cities dry with their undeserving pensions. Mo' money, mo' money, mo' money!!

not a billy

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 11:42 p.m.

Seems like the Ypsilanti Community Utilities Authority (YCUA) model should be considered. It seems to have functioned fairly effectively for over twenty years, albeit not without some bumps and bruises. Create a Public Safety AUTHORITY to manage seperate police and fire divisions. Let the Township fire personel assume management of fire services, the City [police personnel assume management of police services. It worked for water and sewer, and there is enough BS being tossed around right now to fertilize the new Authority. Or the city can try to implement this new SEMCOG model, or just flounder and let the swirling around the drain continue until it is too late. The end might be closer than most think.

not a billy

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 11:31 p.m.

Chief Walker "clearly knows a lot about Public Safety"? Coming from a man (Lange) who "clearly" knows nothing about Ypsilanti, public safety, or the background of his staff. Putting my money on about 2 years for his tenure in Ypsilanti. Here today, gone tomorrow. And the residents will be burdened with his actions for many years to come.

Ypsi Eastsider

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 11:04 p.m.

B-n-R, there are over 4,000 certified police and firefighters in Michigan that are currently unemployed. At least 10 of them would be more than happy to take on a dual role if they could get paid and have a pension.

Ypsi Eastsider

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 10:56 p.m.

Does the name plate in the photo say Stan Eldridge? Too funny.


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 10:34 p.m.

It's funny that these 'experts' never acknowledge that fire and police are two different mind sets. People become firefighters and not cops for a reason. Vice versa. I know people talk about what's 'cost effective'. Ok, you're having a heart attack. Is that the time you want the lowest-bidder mentality coming to your house? Your house is on fire. You really want a cop that was forced into this and has no desire to enter a burning building coming to watch your house burn? What's cost effective isn't always the best option. Hey, get rid of both, offer free gun training and fire extinguisher training to residents. That would be cost effective too.

anonymous hippopotamus

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 9:49 p.m.

Why not open up the fire dept to volunteers? They could keep a skeleton crew of real firefighters that cross train and supervise the volunteers. I understand it's not an easy task finding people and making sure they're proficient, but i don't think it's impossible. I would join if the opportunity arises.


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 7:14 p.m.

Sounds like a better idea than the full public safety department. It is still a lot to ask of one person to be skilled in fire, EMT, and policing.

Dog Guy

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 6:35 p.m.

Has Ypsilanti City Manager Ralph Lange considered the cost of additional uniforms for each employee? Consider multiple uniforms for the jobs: fireman, policeman, cowboy, Indian, biker, construction worker and the cost of voice and dance instruction!

Joe Hood

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 5:29 p.m.

A lot of California cities do this with their units. Sunnyvale, in the Bay area, does this and it is very effective. Imagine having professional firefighters, with gear in their trunk, already driving around your neighborhood. Ann Arbor ought to look at this, since they only have three guys on a truck and need four to enter a burning building.

Joe Hood

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 5:32 p.m.

OK, I was wrong, not a lot of cities in CA, only two.

Joe Hood

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 5:31 p.m.


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

with $ 600 000 /$ 700 000 in Overttime you/we can afford to hired more one can service TWO MASTERS................. So /Or is this the exsample in a DUI the police offers can take may blood and then give me a shot to sleep/refresh my body! THE question is WHO is in charge.The constituion or Semcog.? .THE CITZEN !


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

Look at Monroe Fire Department, they have gone down from 3 stations to 2, from 15 firefighters on each day down to 4 with a minimum of 3. They now depend on mutual aid to fight their fires. Their PSO rarely help out. They only run their engines with only one or two firefighters depending if all the firefighters are on duty. Their police command staff are not required to get into their fire turnout gear. This will leave only 2 or 3 police officers to gear up IF they are available. The fire department has basically done away with fire prevention, no more confine space or high angle rescue, no more hazmat team, no more ALS transport. The department may lose 2 more firefighters this year. The city has told them that they will no longer hire just "Firefighters", but will hire only PSO. So they will more than likely loose their ALS engines later this year or next year. They will be lucky if they stay medical first responders at all. The City mgr has stated publicly that they have not saved any money doing this. Ypsilanti, for your own safety and those of the firefighters, you really need to look at this very very closely. Just what services are you willing to give up?

Dog Guy

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 3:06 p.m.

Using fire trucks for high-speed pursuit could be expensive.


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 5:19 p.m.

But it would be cool....


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 2:48 p.m.

At some point, doesn't it make more sense to combine the city police with neighboring policing agencies, and the fire department with neighboring fire departments to make a police district staffed by professional law enforcement personnel and a fire district staffed by professional firefighters? Turning police officers into firefighters and firefighters into police officers doesn't make a lot of sense. Rethink this. Fast.


Sat, Jan 12, 2013 : 3:54 p.m.

Combining fire departments should be discussed in a General Public Session Meeting - where Township taxpayers can add thoughts and opinions. Usually, for a idea of this nature to move forward, discussion and debate is usually required at meeting in compliance with Michigan's Open Meeting Act notification statue. Not sure if a working session falls under OMA or not. Also, doesn't Ypsilanti Township usually have at two readings of any pending resolutions prior to adopting proposals, such as this normally? Either way, look forward to upcoming articles focused on combining City of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township's Fire Departments.

Katrease Stafford

Sat, Jan 12, 2013 : 4:29 a.m.

Thanks for the information, YpsiGirl4Ever. I'm not referring to the police department though, only the two fire departments. The Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees discussed combining its fire department with the City of Ypsilanti's during an Oct. 22 work session. The Chief Copeland reached out to Ypsilanti's city manager to discuss the matter. We have a story publishing in the next few days on this and the subsequent outcome. I'll be sure to link to it here in the comments section when it publishes. Until then, here's a link the to the township's meeting minutes. Scroll down to the end of the second page of the Oct. 22 work session minutes. That's where the discussion takes place and read through page four:


Sat, Jan 12, 2013 : 2:34 a.m.

Correction - Should denote WCSO, not WSCO.


Sat, Jan 12, 2013 : 2:24 a.m.

Ypsilanti Township Government Public Meeting Minutes reflect the following information Katrease from December 20, 2011: "A motion was made by Clerk Lovejoy Roe, supported by Treasurer Doe to approve the 2012-2015 Police Services Contract and authorize signing (see attached). The motion carried unanimously. Supervisor Stumbo reported this contract would add four deputies to the department and include a six-month option to decrease the number, if it became necessary. " The Police Service Contract with the WSCO has not been discussed in the Township General Meetings in 2012. More likely than not, this is due to action taken at the Public Meeting on 12/20/2011 by the Township Board to renew WCSO contracted services until at least 2015.

Katrease Stafford

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 5:42 p.m.

YpsiGirl4Ever, Ypsilanti Township was still interested in combining its fire department with the city's until very recent developments. We actually have a story coming soon about this with more details.


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 5:21 p.m.

Katrease, That would be on the Township's end also. The Township was able to achieve cost savings with the WSCO last year. After this point, the Township tabled discussion pursuing talks of combining services with the City of Ypsianti. If Ann regularity sent a reporter to the Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees meetings (as they should....for the public's right to know) this fact would be known.


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 5:20 p.m.

Lots of cities do this without a problem, so I am confused why the people of Ypsi are so hesitant to move to this model. Various towns that I have lived in across the country have had combined services and they ran smoothly and efficiently. And if the current fire and police officers quit in response to this, then hire new ones who come into the job knowing about the cross training. The people of Ypsi need to figure out that this is the new reality until they can somehow get out from under the Water St. debt or accept a tax increase on top of their already high taxes. And with this reality, no township will want to unite any major services with the city...

Katrease Stafford

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 3:02 p.m.

YpsiLivin, In the hybrid model the firefighters wouldn't be cross-trained, just the police officers. Now in the full public safety department, both would be cross-trained. Lange said the city is moving forward with the hybrid model. I've written stories in the past about a possible Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township fire collaboration being considered, but it looks like that's no longer the case-- at least on the city's end.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 12:53 p.m.

"We're going to have a lot of property loss," he said. "...I've seen it in other departments. Your fires proliferate and what starts small is going to be a large fire." I wouldn't doubt that. The question is what is more cost effective for citizens? Paying the increased insurance premiums that would presumably result or paying the cost of a larger fire department?


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 12:41 p.m.

What if you are a career police who does not exactly wish to go into burning buildings? Or, what if a career firefighter doesn't wish to break up drug fights as a police officer? Why not put snow plows on the mayor's and city council's cars and have them cross-trained as a hybrid plowing team?

Ypsi Eastsider

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 10:57 p.m.

One of the Ypsi Fire trucks does have a snow plow.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 12:54 p.m.

you make some valid points......especially the snow plow one ;)