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Police, Fire Unions Raise Objections To School Safety Plan

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Police and fire unions in Chicago were raising objections to the mayor's plan to get children to school safely.

The plan -- called Safe Passage -- involves not only police officers, but firefighters, animal control officers and Streets and Sanitation Department employees. CBS 2's Dorothy tucker explains why they're so upset.

When the school bell rings to start the new year, firemen from Engine 23 will be among the scores of firefighters ordered to help students get to school safely.

In a memo, Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago wrote, "During specific hours of the day, all companies will be on the routes and establish a visible presence to the children traveling to and from schools."

It's an order the president of the Chicago Firefighters Union doesn't like.

"If something violent in nature were to happen, we're not equipped or trained to handle that," Chicago Firefighters Union President Tom Ryan said.

Michael Shields, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, also criticized the plan, saying it proves the Chicago Police Department is short-handed.

"This is definitely a clear indication that if Chicago fire firefighters are providing security on the streets of Chicago, clearly we don't have enough Chicago police officers to man these streets," said Shields.

But a spokesman for Police Supt. Garry McCarthy disagreed, saying this has nothing to do with a lack of police, and that every agency in the city is being asked to take a part in the school's Safe Passage program.

Animal control officers will be on the lookout for dangerous dogs along the paths to schools, Streets and Sanitation workers will make sure vacant lots are clean, and the Chicago Park District will provide security at city parks.

"Our role at the park is taking care of the park, making sure that it's secure, making sure that the park safe," said Chicago Park District CEO Michael Kelly.

All together, representatives from 16 city agencies will play a role in the city's safe passage program. City officials have said they will join the scores of men and women who already help patrol the schools.

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