A number of readers sent me articles today (Tuesday) about a new program in New Haven, Connecticut where a firefighter and police officer will team up in a neighborhood as part of a new program to target youth violence. Most have pointed out that this sounds a lot like the controversial DC Fire & EMS Department program of “soft posting” fire companies in high crime areas.
There are differences though between the programs. In DC the firefighters aren’t paired with police and are often sent to high crime areas in the middle of the night. The DC program is viewed by those who came up with it as more as a direct crime deterrent, while the New Haven plan’s goal seems to be to provide role models.
The departments have agreed to conduct some hour-long joint patrols in neighborhood spots where kids gather, as part of the city’s ongoing effort to stem youth violence by having responsible adults be more visible and reach out to them.
The plan is to have a firefighter join a cop in one neighborhood public spot, around 4:30 p.m. and the again around 6:30 p.m., Fire Chief Allyn Wright said at a press conference on the Green Monday afternoon.
“New Haven’s Finest and New Haven’s Bravest” will “stand should to shoulder,” said Police Chief Dean Esserman.
Police union President Louis Cavaliere Jr. said his local has filed a grievance with the state labor board over the new plan. He argued that the city should have negotiated the plan with the union first.
“You have got to multi-task and make life-and-death situations, in a split moment,” Cavaliere said about police officers. “I’m not saying a firefighter can’t do that, but is that the position they want to put another person in?”
Fire Union President Lt. James Kottage said he liked the idea that firefighters will be doing more community outreach, but that the city and fire union should put something in writing about the new duties.
“We are not going to walk beats or perform any police functions,” he said. “We will continue to participate with our involvement in the community.”