By Ed Jacques, LEJ Editor

Monroe Police Chief Tom Moore was pleased when his patrol union agreed to implement 12-hour shifts in August, 2010. Moore and POA President Bryan Gee agreed that the 12-hour shifts would save the City of Monroe on overtime and sick time as well as putting more officers on the road. Gee was certain that his members would also come to appreciate many of the quality of life benefits that 12-hour shifts had provided police officers in other municipalities, and eventually save the layoffs of some members in his unit. What he didn’t know was that it was also an unintentional first step towards putting them in a position to further enhance the group’s value. The Monroe POA had already made significant concessions in their last collective bargaining agreement. Shortly thereafter, as had been their history, the fire- fighter negotiations were go- ing poorly. Their union had threatened to discontinue their ambulance service. In September, the City asked the police union if they would be interested in taking medi- cal first responder classes to ensure that citizens could count on qualified personnel in the case of a medical emer- gency. Twelve police officers completed the 84 hours of in-house training provided by Huron Valley Ambulance. The certification also resulted in a one-half percent increase in pay. When contract negotiations with the fire union continued to go down- hill, the City and its police union agreed that a majority of its officers would be good candidates for firefighter cross-training. Monroe Fire Chief Mo- minee was an instructor with the Monroe County Firefighters Association, which is the host for the Michigan Firefighters Training Council, the certif- ing body. Fire Chief Mominee would conduct the training. Twelve candi- dates were chosen by seniority and appointed as part-time members of the Monroe Fire Department for training purposes by City Manager George Brown and training money was approved by City Council. The training began in November of 2010 and all 12 were certified as firefighters I and II in March, 2011, with 12 more members scheduled for the class in November of 2011. There is no current mandate on either the police or fire side for any employee to become cross-trained. The firefighter union filed for an injunction in Circuit Court to stop the training, which was denied. Monroe’s City Charter does not mandate a police and fire department, only a police and fire chief. No firefighters were laid off as a result of the voluntary cross-training, even though none of the 17 current full-timers chose to participate. Although there were initial costs associated with the cross-training and purchase of equipment, if the City chooses to implement public safety they will certainly see significant savings in 2012. Part of their reason is that seven of the nine current police command officers are eligible for retirement in December, 2011, and will likely take advantage of an agreement that provides their current health care coverage stays in place until Medicare kicks in. If they do not retire, they will receive current em- ployee’s health care benefits, which is not as comprehen- sive. Regardless of what those command personnel decide, the City of Monroe projects a balanced budget in 2012. The patrol union agreed that if and when public safety implementation occurs, as do public safety employees in other communities, officers will get a raise for being cross- trained and all remaining members will be eligible for training in the future. After implementation, all new hires must be certified as PSO’s. “Local unions must under- stand the economic stressors that many communities face,” said Brian Gee. “Making some concessions, going to 12-hour shifts and taking this additional training has provided job security for my members. I didn’t want the Monroe Police Department to be a good candidate for con- solidation by the Sheriff’s Department.” The firefighters union has still not settled their contract and have filed lawsuits and conducted a negative public relations campaign on the issue of cross-training. Firefighters will stay in the fire house and are certainly necessary in the transition to public safety if it takes place. “They perform specialized skills and have the knowledge and experience that would benefit public safety in Monroe.” added Gee. “I would like to work with many of them.” Chief Moore emphasized the need to be proactive. “Governor Snyder has stated emphatically that discretionary revenue sharing allotments to municipalities will be tied into their efforts involving consolidation of ser- vices. We’ll be ready.”