Salt Lake firefighters are worried that slowed-down police response times could get them injured or killed.
Charlie Quick, president of the local chapter of the International Association of Firefighters, said firefighters are concerned for their own safety because they have already noticed a slowdown in police response times."We have major concerns not only for the people out there, but for our own safety," Quick said.
Members of the Salt Lake Police Association voted last week to strictly follow procedures calling for at least two people the responding officer and a backup to answer potentially dangerous calls. Police acknowledged their rededication to following the book could slow response times.
"Firefighters always travel red-lights-and-siren if there is a possibility of physical injury," Quick said. "We will inevitably arrive ahead of them (police). Following the book can get us killed.
"At this point in time, my biggest concern is that firefighters could get involved in a situation where a firefighter gets injured in a violent act. If that happens, it would be disastrous."
Quick said firefighters have already responded to accident calls where they have to maintain traffic control as well as give emergency treatment. "In a traffic accident, you can have multiple injuries. And oftentimes we need all of our resources to take care of them adequately. It could be a very serious problem."
Eldon Tanner, president of the police union, said that in the past, some supervisors and responding officers have canceled calls for backup officers because of staffing shortages.
"The officers have canceled their backups in order to keep officers available for other calls. We know we're stretched tight," Tanner said. But starting last week, police voted to strictly follow procedures on potentially dangerous calls, such as a suspicious vehicle or person, family fights or burglar alarms. They made the decision to bring public attention to their breakdown in contract negotiations with city officials.
The police union asked for a 10.1 percent salary increase. City bosses say there just isn't money available in the budget.
Quick said firefighters are sympathetic with the police union's fight with the city, as they are also in negotiations. He said this conflict is just the latest in a series of battles, underlining the fact that city bosses don't give enough priority to the public safety department.
Last year, fire officials were never able to reach a contract agreement with the city, prompting off-duty firefighters to stage a weeklong "informational picket" in front of City Hall.