In Woodbury, Mn., the police will help if you get mugged, or if your house catches fire, or if you have a heart attack. The St. Paul Pioneer Press says the city is the only place in Minnesota where on-duty police fight crime, put out fires. and respond to medical emergencies as paramedics. “It’s a good idea,” said cop-fireman Spencer Scofield, as he emerged soot-covered from a flaming building at a training session. “The police are usually the first ones there, anyway.” The city’s supercop program was recognized this week by the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs for efficient government because it saves money and, potentially, lives. Response times in Woodbury have improved dramatically, and the program has saved the equivalent of 4.5 full-time jobs.
So far, 10 of Woodbury’s 63 police officers have been trained as firefighters. The extra training is worth $1.25 more per hour, in addition to base hourly wages ranging from $22 to $31. Woodbury has become a good place to have a heart attack – with more than half of all victims surviving, compared with a national average of about 10 percent. The city had set a goal of having five firefighters on the scene of a fire within nine minutes, 90 percent of the time. They knew police – already cruising around town – were usually the first at any fire. The city decided to train some police officers also to handle fire duty. The results have been impressive: The city achieved the five-firefighter goal half the time in 2005, 75 percent in 2007.