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A judge has issued a decision in a controversial move by Cedar Falls officials to consolidate the city's police and fire departments into a public safety operation.

Two years ago, attorneys for the International Association of Firefighters Local 1366 filed a petition in Black Hawk County District Court in an attempt to stop city officials from appointing candidates with little firefighter experience to fire department leadership roles under the combined safety services department. The former Cedar Falls firefighters' union filed the petition in July 2019 in an effort to get those appointments overturned.

In the petition, the firefighters union said the city appointed nine people to leadership positions in the fire department, and claimed that professional firefighters weren't considered for any of the "critically important roles" when the departments were consolidated. According to union officials, at least six of the nine cross-trained police officers never worked one day as a full-time firefighter.

Specifically, the petition filed by union attorneys asked the court to stop the appointments and issue a ruling that the city of Cedar Falls had violated state law by placing individuals in fire department supervisory positions without adequate experience and physical testing.

Judge Bradley Harris sided with the union when he handed down the ruling last week, following a six-day bench trial that was held in June. Harris ordered the city to rewrite the job qualifications for the public safety leadership positions. Under the ruling, the city has 45 days to revise the employment classifications to include specific police and firefighter experience and adequate training.

Despite the decision, nine public safety supervisors who were promoted to their current jobs when the departments were consolidated will retain their positions. The court denied the union's request to rescind those promotions.

In the petition, the firefighters' attorney, David Ricksecker of Washington, D.C., argued that the promotions violated a state law that prohibits employment of individuals in fire department positions if they are unable to meet reasonable physical condition training and level of experience requirements for the positions.

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