The Dallas Police Department wants to transfer its bomb squad duties to the fire department as part of a plan that could put more patrol officers on the street.
Dallas Fire-Rescue would oversee all bomb squad duties starting in June. Top brass said the plan is more about efficiency. Currently, the squad operates on an on-call basis, but once Fire-Rescue gets up to speed, the bomb squad will be a 24-hour on-duty operation.
"We believe over time, it’s going to better serve the city,” said police spokesman Lt. Andy Harvey. "The transfer will be phased in over time, and our officers will actually work for Dallas Fire-Rescue as firefighters are trained in bomb squad duties."
Current bomb squad detectives will be allowed to stay with Fire-Rescue for as long as they like and will retain police officer status.
Some city leaders said the move will free up more officers to work the streets and allow the police department to make better use of its budget dollars.
But the plan is under fire from both officers and firefighters.
"It makes about as much sense as the Dallas Police Department investigating arsons," said Glenn White, president of the Dallas Police Association. "We know what our jobs are. Law enforcement involves bombs, and it involves explosions."
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"I’m not sure who will volunteer for the job," said D.D. Pierce, president of the Dallas Firefighters Association. "It’s not a job where you get a second chance."
Pierce said he was also concerned because the firefighters-turned-bomb-squad-members would be called out on dangerous missions that are usually reserved for law enforcement, such as drug raids where homes are often booby trapped.
The Dallas Police Department has had a bomb squad since 1972. Only 10 percent of the 450 bomb squads across the country -- including Fort Worth's -- are operated by fire departments.