Public Safety Staffing and Needs

While it was not my idea originally (thank you Nick Campion), I am pushing for an independent analysis of public safety staffing and strategy. In short it is hard to come up with the dollars for public safety; especially when we face the enormous unfunded liability in infrastructure which we do.

Here is why I think a public OR private ambulance service operating out of our FDs is better that just meeting increased demand with more fire staff.

Chart of fire calls

Also Ambulances are less up front, less to operate,more nimble and can be staffed with 2 people. Fire trucks require 3-4 people to operate and are more expensive in every way, require wider (thus less safe) streets and beat up the streets more.

I am also working on a list of questions I am interested in being answered. I never got a response to the data questions I asked more than a year ago. So I am going to put them all in writing this time so it doesn’t get lost.

Here are some of the questions I am interested in getting answered.

Fire / EMT

  • What are the local trends in total calls, medical calls, fire calls, false alarms, and calls requiring a 4-minute response?
  • How much of the city is covered by a 4-minute response time? Why will fire not allow a coverage map to be shown to P&Z when the PD is open with that info?
  • How many calls require a fire vehicle to respond?
  • How often do 2 calls requiring a fire vehicle to respond overlap?
  • How many calls are related to unsafe driving practices, especially speeding?
  • What GPS based technology exists to ensure first response can be directed to the closes available vehicle as opposed to multiple vehicles racing to a single location?


  • How does our per capita police (exclude dispatch) compare to other Midwest regional centers?
  • How does our “per serious crime event” police staffing (exclude dispatch) compare to other Midwest regional centers?
  • I have a couple of other questions on the “safety of our officers” that I will not ask in public. My greatest concern in staffing is available back up for the safety of our officers.

EDIT: Here is a link to a group staff is recommending we consider.


  1. I think you should re-think adding dispatch into staffing analysis. Dispatch is an important piece to officer safety. Who else do you think sends “available back up” for the officers on the street?

    1. I agree that dispatch is important, I just keep it separate from the Police / Fire. In addition regionalization is providing good opportunity for share resources in dispatch.

  2. M:
    Not sure of your reasons for outside consulting or your desired outcomes. Are the chiefs requesting consulating support? Do they lack senior staff time for a study? Do they have access to the lastest thought on these matters? I like consultants if expertise or staff time to study the issue does not exist in-house. In this deal, I’m confident expertise is present in-house. Chief Peterson has earned respeet on this topic. 1. Regarding police headcount, Roger has done fine work on assessing consumption of offier time that stands up to anything I’ve seen nationally. Plus he and his staff have access to the latest thought and theory from the NCPA, PERF and CALEA which are the same resources a consultant will use. Finally, Rger has demonstrated a tendency (and been criticized by staff for) to not be aggressive requesting resources. If he says he needs 12, there’s a good bet that is a conservative ask. 2. I caution against straight-up comparision to other communities – it is tricky. Obscure variaables have a huge impact. In-commute, through commute, type of industry/employee base, tourist town, college-town, and kinds of services desired by local populace…all impact on demand. For one example, body-cams will have a staff demand that we have not seen with dash-cams and other tech-gear. 3. Crime rate is but one determinant. Certainly it is the data ppoint that captures headlines and the public’s sense of security but other demands of human foibles drive police contact as much or more than crime incidents. As we are seeing on the national stage, now is the time to support sufficient police staff to enable community, and particularly minority cmmunitiy, relations-building and police training activities. Prevention and training activites are always first cut in lean times and last restored/created in good times absent a crisis. It is essential that our investment in police training, e.g. use of less lethal force tools, deadly force decision-making, commuications skills and mental health crisis response be suppported at this time. We are not immune from one of these incidents that have made national news in the last year. Smart, thoughtful and well-trained officers are the only answer to de-escalate these incendiary contacts.

    Regarding, Gold X and RFD – I claim no expertise. We engaged a nationwide search for Chief Martin and he returns to us with multi-agency experience.

    So, if the chiefs desire consulting support for these topics because they lack senior staff time to conduct a study, I would support the expense but I would not for simply an outside pair of eyes because we have good in-house expertise. Those funds are better spent sending tomorrow’s senior staff people to the national schools, e.g. FBINA, and the professional conferences.

    My $.02….

    1. Thanks for the comments. My request has more to do with the FD / EMT. I requested data more than a year ago and never got a response. One area where we do not have expertise is on how development patterns affect response times. Neither the PD or FD are commenting on how our out of control sprawl have affected response times. That is an area where we need consultant services. Here is just 1 example. Because of a decision to find cheaper land we have our Zumbro Valley Mental Health in one of the worst possible locations. Every time an officer responds there we lose that officer for an hour. A little bit of planning ahead of time and we would have saved millions. Agree 100% on chief Peterson. He is one of the best chiefs in America.

  3. M: I understand your example and I could offer a few more but I would still not immediately conclude that outside consulting support is necessary…and I’ve done consulting so it isn’t like I have a anti-consulting bias. Consulting has its proper role. I simply think staff can do this for us unless they dont have the time. There are models for public safety review of develpment plans readily available. Again, such review processses have staff demand implications and adds another potentially contentious step in the approval process for developers that our city has understandably been hesitant to impliment.

    Generally speaking, my experience is hire consultants because over the course of time as a result of familiarity I guess, we tend to discount the expertise and credbility of our in-house staff. I found it amusing that commissioners in Marshall, Worthington and Mankato treated me as if I had credibility while my own commissioners viewed my opinions with skepticism. Human nature, perhaps. I favor investing those funds in the advanced development of our in-house future leaders.

    Thanks for inviting the discussion.

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