Chicago police and fire sharing a safety HQ

November 22, 2011 (CHICAGO)

City officials say the public safety headquarters will enhance safety by putting members of the police and fire departments under one roof.

In a move to save the city money, command staff for both police and fire don't have a choice but to cooperate. Top fire department brass have moved from rented office space in a high rise to the 2nd floor of Chicago Police Headquarters.

The fire commissioner says the space is much bigger and cheaper.

The painters have yet to finish, the boxes are still full, but Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff likes his new digs.

"We have more room than we did in other building and it's rent free," said Hoff. "So we're happy."

Saving money is exactly why Emanuel is combining the fire and police command staff into one building at 35th and Michigan, which will be renamed Chicago Public Safety Headquarters. To make room for fire on the second floor, some police officers on desk duty were moved to the streets.

The mayor says the move should save the city $300,000.

"It should bring the type of collaboration, consolidation that has been long-awaited. No other city has now launched this effort of public safety," said Emanuel.

The mayor says the move is not just about sharing space; it's about combining efforts when it comes to anti-terrorism, bomb and arson, and with a long standing perception that police and fire do not get along, Hoff says there will be no problems combining functions.

"We work on the streets together every day whether it's a fire, an EMS call, a hostage situation, we all work as a team. It depends on whose situation it is - we back them up, they back us up," said Hoff.

Hoff says there is no reason why the command staff cannot work together in one building. Emanuel is hoping that cooperation will filter down through the ranks.

The mayor says the move makes sense considering 60 to 70 percent of fire and police calls are coordinated in their response.

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