Committee puts plan for Charleston Public Safety Department on hold

VIDEO: Committee puts plan for Charleston Public Safety Department on hold
Published: Apr. 4, 2017 at 2:30 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 4, 2017 at 6:48 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A Charleston City Council committee decided now is not the time to change the structure of the police and fire departments.

Mayor John Tecklenburg presented a plan to form a public safety department to oversee the police and fire departments. That department, under Tecklenburg's plan, would be headed by a new public safety director.

The mayor says a public safety department will be better prepared to handle what he called the explosion of growth and visitors to the city.

"All the number trends are headed up, Tecklenburg said. "And I just want to be proactive in thinking about the best way to have that global view, high-level view of how best to serve our citizens."

Tecklenburg wants to appoint Police Chief Greg Mullen to oversee to serve in that role. Mullen attended Tuesday's meeting.

Among the questions asked by the city's public safety committee, which is made up of the mayor and four council members, is whether such a reorganization of the city's forces would save tax dollars and improve the quality of public safety.

Councilman James Lewis noted Mullen has done a great job as police chief but questioned his qualifications to oversee the fire department.

"He hasn't been trained in fire safety, so how is he gonna manage the police department and the fire department?" Lewis said.

Lewis called for a consultant to be hired and a national search for a public safety director.

Other council members expressed different concerns.

"The biggest concern is we don't have the money in the budget for another layer of bureaucracy," Councilman Marvin Wagner said.

"My biggest concern is we are moving too fast," Council Member Kathleen Wilson said.

In the end, committee members agreed with Wilson and they decided to take no action.

After the meeting, Tecklenburg agreed more discussion is needed and said he is willing to have more discussion about the idea before taking the next step.

Meanwhile, current Charleston Fire Chief Karen Brack is retiring from her post this week. Brack will be replaced by Deputy Fire Chief John Tippett who will serve as interim chief.?

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