Analysis suggests SJ could cut police, fire jobs

February 4, 2012 5:26:26 PM PST
At a time when many police and fire departments are having to shrink their ranks, a new study suggests one Bay Area public safety department may have a surplus.

The new public safety and staffing analysis is causing quite a stir in San Jose. The study, published by IBM, found that the fire and police departments are overstaffed and inefficient. Mayor Chuck Reed asked IBM to look at the city's books and figure out ways to save money, restore services, and work efficiently, but the findings are definitely not what police and fire union leaders wanted to hear.

Recent cuts to San Jose's police and fire departments have both officers and firefighters worried, but this latest analysis has public safety officials fuming. "This is not a good report. The recommendations are absolutely dangerous for our citizens," San Jose Firefighters Union President Robert Sapien says.

IBM says public safety can increase if the departments are run better and re-organized. Analysts believe the fire department spends too much time responding to medical calls and should have fewer people on each engine. As a result, staffing could drop by one-third to 505 firefighters.

"I think what's going on right now is they're looking for a new place to do business and they're making recommendations that are going to put our citizens at risk," Sapien says.

IBM does make crime predictive software and suggests adding technology to help focus on trouble spots when fighting crime. The report says, 'These new models can be greatly informed by new analytics and technology, neither of which are currently being deployed to their fullest potential."

"There is an unpredictability factor in public safety that no computer model, no analyst can predict," argues Jim Unland, president of the San Jose Police Officers Association.

Right now, San Jose has just under 1,100, the same number per capita that it had in 1974 when the crime rate was three times higher. IBM says the department could drop a few hundred officers.

"I think our police department's already too small and our fire department is stretched too thin. There are better ways to deploy the resources we have. That's what we're searching for," Mayor Reed says.

Reed says cutting is not the goal, but saving money is. Unland wants assurances. "If you want to look at some of the other recommendations, go ahead. But police and fire are off-limits," he says.

In the meantime, taxpayers are torn. Resident Sterling Harwood says, "I'm for being experimental and I think trying some more technology during these lean times is certainly worth a try." On the other hand, Feliberto Martinez tells ABC7, "I would like to see my money going to hiring more officers."

On Wednesday, the mayor will ask city staff to review the analysis and then make recommendations which the city council will start voting on in the spring.

Load Comments