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Could a councilman’s idea resolve the public safety debate in Cedar Falls?

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (KWWL) – A proposal to create a strategic plan regarding public safety will likely be discussed at the next Cedar Falls City Council meeting.

“I know the city has reasons for it, we just need to do a much better job of articulating that,” said Councilman-at-large Rob Green, who plans to place an item to discuss creating such a plan at the December 3rd meeting.

He initially brought up the idea at the November 5th city council meeting, which drew a crowd of hundreds in protest the city’s public safety model, which combines police and fire.

“November 5th was a good meeting, and we’ve taken some of that input, myself and staff have talked about various aspects of their concerns,” said Cedar Falls Mayor Jim Brown.

Green said he saw three sides of debate including the city, opposition groups, and concerned citizens.

“And I’m in that camp, of being a resident who just has questions about it and wants some clarity.”
“City staff and the residential groups like ‘Stand Up for Safety’ have really entrenched themselves in certain positions, and in some cases they’ve lost objectivity. You’re hearing misinformation from both sides unfortunately,” said Green.

Green says he wants more details about the model.

“The city is saying that we’re following council directives, but the directive we’re providing are very vague, they just say expand the public safety model,” said Green.

“I think in essence we’ve done that, we’ve explained where we’re going and where we hope to end up. Of course, there could be some modifications along the way but we’ve pretty much communicated the direction we’re headed,” said Public Safety Director Jeff Olson.

Olson has spoken about the program at council several times, but Green says he needs more. Specifically, he wants to know the reasons given years ago when the public safety model was first adopted.

“For me as a new council member I’ve not been privy to those discussions, and I still feel like I should be able to have the exact same information that they had, and that the residents should have that information,” said Green.

Green said his opinion is that while cross training is a good idea the city would be better served with police and fire being separate.
Mayor brown commended Green for doing his homework.
The councilman showed me a list of about 50 strategic plans from other departments nationwide.

You can read that list by going to the Councilman’s blog here. 

Green said he hopes to vote on the plan at the December 3rd city council meeting.

Also, this morning the civil service commission in cedar falls approved a new list of candidates who could be hired as PSO’s.
They’re doing so without the full support of the firefighter’s union, who as we’ve been reporting, say the physical requirements for the PSO’s aren’t up to par.

A letter to the commissioners from the union president reads as follows:

November 26, 2018

To: Civil Service Commission, Robert Frederick, John Clopton, Sue Armbrecht

Fr: Scott Dix, President Cedar Falls Firefighters Local 1366

Dear Commissioners,

I am requesting that you do not approve the certification of the Public Safety Officer (PSO) list that is on the November 28, 2018 agenda. Currently the City of Cedar Falls is using PSO’s as direct replacements for full time firefighters. The PSO’s are being counted towards minimum staffing on a daily basis at the fire department. As such all PSO’s should be held to the same minimum qualifications and physical fitness standards that were last used to hire full time professional firefighters in Cedar Falls.

All PSO applicants should be EMT certified in the state of Iowa. The Cedar Falls Fire department is certified by the state to provide EMT level medical response. As the City is not hiring more professional firefighters, incoming PSO’s should be held to this standard to maintain our level of certification and service level to the public. Your current PSO application process does not require EMT certification.

The physical fitness standards that the PSO candidates were tested at are both substandard and non-representative for the physical requirements of being a professional firefighter. Firefighters must be capable of performing fireground duties while wearing over 50 pounds of equipment. This is why the nationally certified Candidate Physical Agility Test (CPAT) was created by the NFPA. During an NFPA CPAT physical agility test, candidates wear a weighted vest and perform many firefighting duties, including equipment carry, fire hose advance, ladder raise, roof breach and other firefighting tasks. Cedar Falls has used the NFPA CPAT physical agility test for years as an evaluation test for professional firefighter candidates. The NFPA CPAT is much tougher and representative than the physical agility test that the PSO candidates were required to pass.

Cedar Falls City administration has also set an even higher physical requirement for professional firefighters this year. This year the city administration ordered a Cedar Falls professional firefighter to perform and pass a 5 ½ hour long Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) in order to remain on duty. The firefighter mentioned was not removed from work for illness or injury and was not seen by a city physician prior to the testing or following. The firefighter FCE test was created based upon the physical requirements set out in the Cedar Falls Professional Fire Fighter job description. A firefighter FCE includes a multitude of physical tests such as lifting 100 pounds dozens of times, pushing and pulling a 165 pound sled dozens of times, and ladder climbs to list only a few. If a current professional firefighter must pass this FCE in order to keep his job, would it not seem prudent that incoming PSO candidates be required to pass this firefighter FCE in order to replace the professional firefighter on a daily basis. The physical requirements in the current PSO candidate testing process are not anywhere close to meeting the levels of physical requirements put forth in the NFPA CPAT or the firefighter FCE exam. It is for this

reason that the current PSO requirements for application and for testing are both inadequate and nonrepresentative Please refrain from voting for certification of the PSO list until you can investigate the information presented here. I am available and would like to discuss the importance of the requirements with the Cedar Falls Civil service commission.

Respectfully submitted,

Scott Dix, President Cedar Falls Firefighters Local 136

Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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