Public safety analysis recommends changes

Staffing, workflow discussed in report

Submitted Photo Minot Detective Kristin Guerton swabs a weapon in the police lab.

An analysis of Minot’s fire and police services shows some need for more personnel, but consultants who reported to the Minot City Council Monday were largely positive regarding the operation of the two departments.

The study by Center for Public Safety Management (CPSM) provided 32 recommendations for the Minot Fire Department and 78 recommendations for the Minot Police Department. Recommendations vary from small to significant.

An assistant chief and administrative assistant are recommended for both departments.

“We feel like that’s a very important position to allow the chief to do a little bit more strategic planning and look at the future for the department,” said Mark Piland, senior associate with CPSM, who reported on the fire department analysis. “We also feel, with that position, it would free up some time for your two administrative chiefs.”

The department has two battalion chiefs who work in training and administration while three others work operationally. Piland recommended freeing up a battalion chief to assist with the process of attaining accreditation. Just over 300 of the nation’s more than 50,000 departments are accredited, he said.

Jarrod Burguan with CPSM presents the police department analysis to the Minot City Council Monday.

The analysis also recommended a fire marshal to provide expertise to the department’s three fire inspectors and an administrative assistant to assist with paperwork associated with fire prevention activities.

Piland said ladder trucks should carry four persons rather than three to operate efficiently and more safely, and the recommendation is to start out with the ladder truck at Station 5, located on Fourth Avenue Northwest, near the U.S. Highway 83 Bypass.

“We also believe, for strategic planning, you also need to add an additional engine to that company,” he said. “Right now, Ladder 5 sits by itself at Station 5. With the addition of an engine, that ladder can now serve the city as a ladder company.”

Field incident technicians to assist a chief in charge of an operation or to serve as a safety officer are necessary as well, Piland said. He also spoke of the need for succession planning to ensure future leadership in the department.

“Four or five years from now, you’re losing most of your top leadership positions in the fire department. So, now is the time to start developing those in the department,” he said.

Submitted Photo A Minot firefighter looks over the scene at a training exercise.

Additionally, Piland said, the fire department meets the minimum emergency response force required for residential fires but does not meet the standard for strip malls, apartments or high rises. The standard calls for 17 personnel at residential fires, 28 at apartments and strip malls and 43 for high rises.

Having more personnel and equipment also eliminates the need to empty out the stations for a major call, instead leaving some behind to respond to other calls that can come in, he said.

Piland also indicated improving the city’s ISO rating from 2 to 1 is attainable since the department is close to that level now. Minot’s department is one of only three Level 2 departments in the state. An improved ISO rating would lower insurance costs for residents.

Council member Stephan Podrygula addressed the accreditation recommendation, noting the city’s police and fire chiefs in past years have not supported seeing that status because of the intensive work and staff time to acquire a designation. Past chiefs also felt the standards were more applicable to urban departments, he said.

“Then, of course, there’s the practical limitation that we probably need more personnel, and it’s hard enough to fill the positions that we have now. We have lots of vacancies. So, in some ways, I’ve gotten a sense it would be a pointless exercise, that it would just point out the weaknesses that you have, and some of our weaknesses are just not something we can do much about,” Podrygula said.

Jill Schramm/MDN Mark Piland with CPSM presents the fire department analysis to the Minot City Council Monday.

He noted the analysis called for a number of new fire department positions, although the department has difficulty filling existing slots.

Piland continued to encourage accreditation.

“The value is not so much that you can put the seal on the truck and tell people you are accredited, but it’s the process that you go through to get there,” he said. “It does make you look at yourself intrinsically, much like this report does but even more deeply.”

Piland also agreed that staffing is difficult for departments around the country.

The Minot Police Department has 84 authorized positions and 81 funded, but only 75 filled.

“We do not make recommendations in this report to add additional police officers,” said Jarrod Burguan, senior public safety consultant with CPSM. “We believe, based upon your workload numbers, you’re reasonably well staffed.”

The analysis of the police department did recommend using civilians in certain positions that do not require sworn officers and bringing back retired officers part-time to help in areas such as managing evidence. Another option is to use civilian employees to respond to minor property-damage crashes.

Burguan suggested reviving recruitment programs that faded during the pandemic, rebuilding recruitment ties to the schools, university and military. Creating an assistant chief position would free up the chief to work on those relationships, he said. He also suggested changes to rules that treat those with law enforcement training the same as newcomers in the application process.

Some other recommendations related to adjusting shift times and doing some restructuring within the department to improve efficiencies and response times and better cover busier periods.

Officers also need to take ownership of community relations, Burguan said. They are engaged and care about their community, but they see building community relations as the job of the department’s community relations section, he said.

“We think that needs to be a philosophical approach that weaves its way throughout the organization, and you do that through leadership. You do that through training. You do that by infusing it into the organization,” Burguan said.

Regarding the police headquarters, Burguan said it was clean and organized but awkward in function.

“There’s some things there that would be enhanced by having a modern workspace,” he said.

The city continues to examine the recommendations in the department analyses.

City Manager Harold Stewart said the department chiefs have identified some recommendations that will be easiest to implement and could be tackled first. The chiefs will speak to the issue during the council’s budget tours in May.

Stewart noted the department studies are about becoming more efficient with taxpayer dollars and do not suggest just throwing new resources at problems.

“But rather to reallocate the resources that we currently have, make sure that we’re doing that efficiently, and if we are going to invest additional resources, that they are supported by data and analysis,” he said.


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