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Public Safety debate continues to grow

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (KWWL) – The conversation is only getting louder, as several members of the community approached the cedar falls city council Monday night to voice their concerns.
KWWL sat down with Cedar Falls Public Safety Director Jeff Olson to ask about his reaction to this growing debate.

“I just don’t think that the message is getting out, that we have more people responding to these calls,” said Olson.

Following a tense city council meeting, where several members of the public opposed the public safety officer program, Cedar Falls Public Safety Director Jeff Olson stands by the city’s plan to cross-train police and fire.

“We’ve had calls where we’ve had 12.14.19 firefighters at a scene immediately, all working at a time, responding to a scene. And we’ve never had that in the history of this department,” said Olson.

Yet, three people citing their own house fires and how they don’t believe the city did enough to prevent their loss. One family even calling the city ‘negligent.’

“I left because I believe this administration has chosen not to listen to its employees. I believe you choose to not meet, or attempt to meet, national standards,” said former Cedar Falls firefighter and union president, Jim Cook. Cook told the council that he left the department because he mistrusts the administration. The former firefighter said he believes Olson has misled the public in regards to how the city has addressed concerns about the PSO program.

Cook pointed out that the city of cedar falls does not meet national standards set forth by the national fire protection association, saying 15 firefighters are required for a house fire.

Olson says, while that is true, it’s common for most of Iowa.

“Our fire chief called around to probably the top 20 cities in Iowa, none of them have adopted those standards.”
said Olson. “It doesn’t mean it’s not safe. In an ideal scenario, you would like to have a cop on every corner and a fire station every two blocks, but you just can’t do those things.”

These are the hard facts that we know surrounding the p-s-o program:

  • The program started in 2005 and currently has 21 PSOs and 19 more in training. There are 21 full-time firefighters.
  • Police respond to around 18,000 calls a year. Fire responds to about 1,800.
  • The city says the firefighter’s union has filed more grievances this year, compared to years past.
  • Five full time firefighters have resigned since the end of August.

There is an organized call on Facebook for Cedar Falls Citizens to attend the city council meeting on Nov. 5th. KWWL will be there for that meeting.

To watch the entire city council meeting from October 15th follow this link. 

Here is more information on those national standards from the National Fire Protection Association.

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Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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