Friday, June 12, 2009

A Few Good Men

I just got done watching A Few Good Men, one of my favorite movies. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is where Tom Cruise is prodding Jack Nicholson to admit he ordered a "Code Red." Cruise asks Nicholson for the truth and Nicholson responds with "You can't handle the truth!"

I can't tell you now many times throughout my 22 years as a fire chief I wanted to tell the elected officials and my bosses "You can't handle the truth" as they were contemplating budget cuts that would impact public safety. Most of the time, they didn't even ask the hard questions about impacts because... they couldn't handle the truth... and they knew it. Or, my boss would order me to make the council report devoid of the stark realities of the impacts... because the boss could not handle the truth.

As I read the headlines on fire service websites, I am saddened to see the fire service sustaining so many cuts, while other things move ahead full steam - like the one I recently read where they were cutting firefighter positions, but building a new baseball stadium. Good God!

It's easy for electeds to feel all warm and fuzzy when talking about building a new baseball stadium and it's damn uncomfortable to talk frankly about the stark reality that if you cut staffing, service levels suffer and the duties performed by the firefighters becomes more dangerous. There's not way to avoid it. That's the truth. But, as we sadly know, they can't handle the truth.

Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Chief. Good post! The main problem with certainly the vast majority of Fire Chief positions is that they are hired and at-will. Take a county sheriff. They are elected and serve at the will of the electorate, not a city manager or county commission. They have a much easier time "telling it like it is" since the people pulling the purse strings can't fire them. No question, Fire Chief's are shackled by this situation. If they tell the truth, their jobs may certainly be in jeopardy. Until that structure changes or in cases where a chief has the personal financial wherewithall to put his or her job at risk for standing up for what is right, the fire service will continue to walk this tightrope.