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Village Manager's Blog

A Guide to Public Safety in Glencoe

Phil_KiralyBy Village Manager Phil Kiraly

Here at the Village we have a tendency to brag that Glencoe was the first community in Illinois to operate under the council-manager form of government (which is something to be proud of!)—but we don’t often celebrate one of our other innovative government efforts – namely our integrated public safety model that was first adopted by the Village in 1954.

The concept may be simple—each of our Public Safety Officers (PSOs) is cross-trained in police, fire and emergency medical services—but the positive implications of the model are far reaching. Interestingly, the Glencoe Public Safety Department is joined only by the Village of Rosemont as the only two combined departments in Illinois (also note, such a combined department is no longer allowed to be created under Illinois law).

Having a combined public safety model works in part because of Glencoe’s size, population and geographic location, as well as the types and frequency of certain calls for service. Rosemont’s Public Safety Department is really a separate police and fire department under combined leadership. Glencoe’s Public Safety Department is different in that our PSOs work around the clock like stand-alone police and fire departments, but is particularly unique in that all of our officers, no matter what role they are filling while on shift have the ability (and more importantly, the training) to step into a police, fire or EMS role. That means squad cars can respond to EMS calls and begin critical life-saving actions well before our ambulance. It means that those on fire shifts can help process prisoners at the station, or aid their colleagues on the police shift with investigations of crimes. There is no other department like ours in the State that can do that.

Should a situation escalate, we are bolstered by mutual aid provided by our neighboring communities. The Village’s memberships in mutual aid organizations (such as the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System (NIPAS), the Emergency Services Team (EST), North Regional Major Crimes Task Force (NORTAF) and the Fire Department Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS)), provide our residents with quality investigative and support resources at significant costs savings by sharing personnel and resources with neighboring municipalities. More importantly, our officers gain valuable skills and experience through their participation on these specialized teams, making them uniquely capable in their regular duties in Glencoe. 

With over 16,000 calls for service last year, our PSOs stayed busy—as did the leadership staff who support our boots on the ground. Part of why the model continues to work is because of the investment the department leadership makes in ensuring that our PSOs receive the training and development they need, to both stay compliant with Federal and State regulations and to ensure that the PSOs stay fresh with their knowledge in each service area. Also, because the model is somewhat unconventional, department leadership constantly monitors demand and adjusts the staffing schedule to reduce overtime and instead backfill with on-duty PSOs when possible.

This department structure has saved the Village millions of dollars since it was implemented in the 1950’s for the simple reason that our unique staffing structure has minimized department overhead (for instance, we have one Director of Public Safety, not two Chiefs – one for Fire and one for Police). And because staff can move freely between tasks during any given shift, we have an ability to employ fewer total employees in the department without any degradation of service. Since last year alone, changes to Public Safety staffing schedules have contributed heavily to all overtime costs across the Village reducing by over $150,000.

Of course, no matter the model—the main goal of our Public Safety Department is to keep the community healthy and safe. I encourage you to learn more about the department’s on-going initiatives and to dive into recent trends via the October Bi-Monthly Report. I also encourage you to stop by our Public Safety Department and say hello – or take a station tour – to learn more about our excellent team.