I was the fire commander for Rohnert Park between 2008 and 2010, and I don't believe the city can achieve even a basic level of safe, competent service without drastic changes to its current public safety model.
I want to be clear that Rohnert Park has some of the most dedicated and courageous line personnel I have worked with in my 30-plus years in the fire service. However, as presently structured, Rohnert Park isn't able to provide adequate police and fire services under a single department.
The managers and supervisors have difficulty understanding fire service operations, resulting in resistance to change.
There are problems maintaining and funding training programs.
There are problems dealing with criticism from outside fire agencies.This has been a pattern for many years.
I was hired to make changes, but within my first year of employment, the city manager departed and the public safety director retired, and the city "discovered" a huge deficit. The momentum for change turned around, and it's been sliding backward ever since.
Statements made by Rohnert Park officials after The Press Democrat's report on fire protection ("Department under fire," March 10) were in obvious conflict with those of the fire chiefs from other departments the city relies on to assist with firefighting. Those agencies are essentially subsidizing fire protection for a city that isn't committed to safe, effective fire operations. As long as the outside agencies do the heavy lifting at Rohnert Park incidents, the city behaves as if there is no basis for concern or criticism.
Rarely does Rohnert Park rely on outside agency support for law enforcement, but it's totally dependent on outside agencies for fires and complex rescues.
A combined public safety operation can work, but it's a rarity in California.
If combining public safety functions was a viable idea, such departments would be flourishing everywhere. Rohnert Park's model is not viable because of inadequate funding, staffing and training. Rohnert Park doesn't save money with this model; it simply cuts corners, relies on the expertise of outside agencies and tries to convince everyone that nothing needs to change.