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Mon, May 20

Prescott Valley Council backing plans for paramedics on SWAT team

PRESCOTT VALLEY - The Prescott Valley Police Department and Central Yavapai Fire District are nearing an agreement in which Central Yavapai paramedics would accompany police on a SWAT team.

The intergovernmental agreement between the agencies is 10 years in the making, and both parties are looking forward to it.

The agreement would enable Central Yavapai paramedics to aid police officers or bystanders who are injured during a SWAT operation, Police Chief Bill Fessler said during a Town Council work/study meeting Thursday. Fessler said he expects the agreement to advance for a council decision this coming Thursday.

The agreement, when approved, would allow the Police Department to use as many as three Central Yavapai paramedics as medics for the department's SWAT team.

The medics are trained in the Northern Arizona Regional Training Academy at the Prescott Valley campus of Yavapai College where they are certified as peace officers, according to a staff report to the council. They receive additional training with the SWAT team, and perform dual roles as tactical operators on the team in addition to paramedic duties.

Paramedics require nine months of training, Central Yavapai Chief Paul Nies said after the meeting.

Nick Fournier, a certified reserve officer with the Police Department and a paramedic/firefighter with Central Yavapai, awaits the signing of the agreement before he can accompany the SWAT team.

The agreement has taken 10 years, Fessler said. He added attorneys raised questions about malpractice and other issues.

Fessler said the department and Central Yavapai will not accrue any costs for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which concludes next June 30.

However, he said costs for the upcoming fiscal year will amount to $4,800 for 220 hours of SWAT training, 60 hours of call-outs at $1,300 and $3,100 for other operations. The agreement states the Police Department shall reimburse Central Yavapai for paramedics who respond with the SWAT team effective the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Fessler credited Town Attorney Ivan Legler for helping to bring about the agreement.

Legler said the "honest explanation" is attorneys have been in the way of reaching an agreement over the past decade.

"We have had difficulty making it work," he said.

Nies said he does not know whether attorneys impeded the process.

"This is something we need to be supporting," he said.

Councilwoman Lora Lee Nye said she is "appalled" that the agreement has taken so long to negotiate.

"This thing should not take 10 weeks, let alone 10 years," she said.

Legler said the parties to the agreement have set aside turf battles, and praised Fessler and Nies.

Responding to a question from Councilman Henry Schmitt, Fessler said police and Central Yavapai officials will revisit the agreement in two years and go over matters such as cost sharing.

Nye suggested keeping thorough records so they can share the information with other agencies that might consider similar agreements.

Also during the meeting, Fessler talked about changes he has proposed in the organization of the Police Department. He became interim chief in March after James Maxson retired, and became chief in August.

Fessler said one goal is restoring the two commander positions. He was a commander when the council appointed him interim chief. Two other commanders, P.J. Janik and Laura Molinaro, retired in recent years.

Vice Mayor Patty Lasker did not attend the meeting.


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