City officials are asking voters Tuesday to approve a measure allowing Harper Woods to join the growing number of Metro communities that combine their police and fire departments.
The City Council on Oct. 5 unanimously approved a public safety implementation plan, which officials say will save the cash-strapped community millions of dollars, allow more police to patrol, and keep the city from having to hire an emergency financial manager.
The city’s firefighters union opposes the plan.
After a similar proposal was rejected by voters in 2011, the Harper Woods Professional Fire Fighters Local No. 1188 agreed to allow some police to fight fires. Local President Nathan Butler said the city is reneging on that agreement.
“We gave them an inch, and now they want to take a mile,” he said. “At the time when we agreed to this, everyone was ecstatic because we were allowing the police onto the fire ground, even though the residents said they wanted to keep police and fire separate.”
Under public safety departments, usually implemented in smaller communities such as the 21/2-square-mile Harper Woods, police officers are cross-trained to fight fires. Metro Detroit communities that have switched to public safety departments include all five of the Grosse Pointes, Canton Township, Farmington, Berkley, Huntington Woods, and Oak Park.