The city of Detroit is equipping firefighters and EMS workers with body armor to wear on the job.
The new body armor policy for firefighters and EMS workers states it is not to be worn while knocking down fires but they are for practically every other run – especially when going to hostile scenes.
“As a firefighter I would be afraid to be out here without it,” said resident Janice Lucas.
Others have concerns.
“Am I against the vests? No, I’m not against protection for our people,” said Mike Nevin, head of the Detroit firefighter’s union. “I mean, I want my people protected but this is the wrong way to go about it.”
Nevin says the new policy points to old problems.
“Our medics and our firefighters are going to wear them on every medical run because of the volatility on the streets right now,” Nevin said. “And the volatility comes when we don’t get there on time and we don’t get there with the right amount of people.”
Response time and manpower are two thorny and contentious issues that have plagued public safety in Detroit for years.
Nevin says staffing for paramedics, firefighters and police is lacking. In fact, the latest Detroit police union newsletter says the department is short nearly 200 people.
FOX 2: “Even now, the city trumpets lower response times, quicker response times. To that you say what?”
“Bulls***,” Nevin said. “They’re manipulating data, they are manipulating murders and homicides and violent crime. They are manipulating fire and EMS runs with this hocus pocus – code 1, code 2, sirens on, sirens off.
“This is putting perfume on a pig. Now you’re arming my people. What statement does that make to the public?”
“I know it sends some very negative messages, but we have to protect our firefighters,” said Lucas.
“They have to protect themselves, it’s crazy out here,” said resident Vanessa Mathis.
And that was painfully apparent back in 2015 when two paramedics were nearly killed in a knife attack while on a medical run.
Nevin says the assaults have not slowed down.
“We’re having assaults weekly,” he said. “It’s becoming chaotic in the streets.”
FOX 2 reached out to both Detroit police and the fire department, but neither wanted to comment.