An eighth Cedar Falls firefighter has resigned in the last 12 months due to a public safety officer (PSO) program the city initiated.
On Jan. 4 the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported a second Cedar Falls firefighter left this week, becoming the seventh to leave since September. Jeff Haler made his Haler resignation.
Haler joined the Cedar Falls Fire Rescue in 1999.
“At that time the department was dedicated to preserving life and property,” he wrote. “The department was very proactive in all aspects of every emergency situation we were expected to confront. I feel that lately the department has been headed in the opposite direction, and insensitive to the citizens and the firefighters.
“Firefighting is historically know(n) as a very dangerous occupation, and the direction that the city of Cedar Falls is going with the Public Safety Officer Program, I believe it is unsafe.”
Haler said he doesn’t feel the city cares if firefighters are injured or killed in the line of duty. His last day will be Jan. 18.
Public Safety Director Jeff Olson disagreed with Haler’s sentiment. He told The Courier many of the full-time firefighters believe in that traditional model and nothing else.
Dusty Stotler, the 2017 Cedar Falls Firefighter of the Year, resigned on Dec. 28. Four of the seven Cedar Falls firefighters who have either resigned or retired since September cited safety concerns related to the PSO program.
Cedar Falls implemented the PSO program about three years ago. Olson believes the PSO program is the model for the future. The city has replaced four departed firefighters with PSOs.
“We have more firefighters now than we’ve ever had,” Olson reportedly said. “We have more people responding to fire scenes than we ever have, it’s just not the traditional firefighters. It’s a better model and a safer model that puts more people on the scene.”
The Courier reported there are 19 full-time firefighters working with four PSOs at the fire department and another 28 PSOs working for the city. Eleven more are in training and more are expected to be trained in the coming weeks.
James Cook worked as a full-time firefighter in Cedar Falls for 12 years before leaving last September. According to the Courier, he took a $20,000 pay cut to work as a firefighter in the Des Moines metro area.
Cook told the Courier he left because he no longer feels the Cedar Falls Fire Department provides the safe service people in the community deserve.
“The safety I’m referencing is my personal safety by not having enough personnel that we’re able to meet national standards for fire response, and the personal risk above and beyond the risk I normally take as a firefighter,” Cook told the paper.
Many of the comments left by Facebook users on KWWL’s Facebook page show support for the firefighters and distrust in the PSO program.
“When is this going to stop,” wrote Mandy Peyton. “Thirty-three years of fire experience and service. Everyone needs to vote them out with mayor Jim Brown being the first one to go! Did you forget that you work for us Mayor Brown?
“You guys are playing a numbers game with the safety of our children and OUR CITY, you should be absolutely ashamed of yourselves.”
Sarah Langel said approximately 300 people showed up wearing red in opposition of the PSO program to a city council meeting, noting several people spoke.
“All fell on deaf ears,” she wrote. “We’ve contacted the mayor, city council and public safety director through various channels: emailed, called, posted on their social media pages. If we do get a response it’s either an incomplete answer or ‘this is the program that is best and the firefighters need to comply.'”
Tim Haw added, “I came here to read (the) comments looking for that one person backing up the City on this one. There’s gotta be one, right? Not a single comment favoring the city in this entire thread. Take the hint City Council.”
Stand Up For Safety, Cedar Falls is a Facebook page with 1,653 likes. The page says it is a group of Cedar Falls citizens concerned about public safety due to the under staffing of the Fire Department and full-time firefighters being replaced by under-trained Public Safety Officers.