San Jose Councilman Calls For Fire Dept. Cuts To Bolster Police

SAN JOSE (KCBS) — A San Jose city councilman has dared to touch the so-called “third rail” of local politics. City Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio is calling for a reduction in firefighter staffing levels in favor of more police officers.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

San Jose is the only city in Santa Clara County that staffs its fire engines with four firefighters. Other cities have only three.

”We may want to do this when we have money, but the reality is that we don’t,” said Oliverio. “The consequence of maintaining this is the layoff of too many police officers.”

Oliverio said that he believes firefighters should be laid off so that the city can afford to save police officers’ jobs.

”Police officers in this time, in this year, are more needed,” said Oliverio. “The residents tell me that again and again.”

But Jeff Welch, president of the San Jose Firefighters’ Union, said the department is already the 30th lowest staffed in the country, and that’s in the 10th largest city in America.

”It means that there is no room for error, and there is no room for any further staffing reductions,” said Welch.

Besides, Welch said that this month firefighters agreed to take a 10 percent cut in pay and benefits, and the new contract maintains the current staffing levels of four-firefighters per engine.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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