When we move into a village, we often take for granted things which we have come to expect from society. When you consider that the first working telephone service in the U.S. was put into service in the late 1870’s/early 1880s, 9-1-1 is not a very old concept, in fact it was originally recommended in the United States in 1957 by the National Fire Chief’s Association, and enacted nationally by the FCC and AT&T in 1967. The first 9-1-1 system was in place by 1968. And yet today (in surburbia and the cities) we simply KNOW and rely on the fact that if we call 9-1-1 someone will show up to help us quickly.
From very ancient times, every village, kingdom and country has relied on a group of people to protect them from forces beyond our control – Knights, Soldiers, Police and Firefighters. We don’t often think of Police and Firefighters as “ancient professions”, but in fact the earliest recording of organized crime patrols and fire brigades can be found in ancient Rome. The practice continued throughout Europe, where citizen Night Watchman patrolled the streets to stop crime and form bucket brigades when a fire was discovered and eventually turned into more modern day “departments” as the need for specialized services grew. In short – the existence and need of these services has been engrained into the very fabric of nearly every village world-wide for centuries.
Our modern day protectors take an Oath to protect and serve the citizens of the Village or City where they work. While it may seem like mere words, these people are the type of people who see it not as mere words, but as a call to action, a standard to live by – and die by, and the need to serve and help others is often entrenched within their personality from a young age. Every day, these folks stand up and say – I’m going to help you, i’m going to protect you. That help and protection transcends beyond the obvious showing up and doing something. To protect and serve also means to inform, to speak up against that which is wrong, to take action against those who would harm the people they’ve sworn to protect. These are not silent people by any means, they are the loudest group, making sure the citizens know whats going on when all else fails. They are the last line of defense – and it is their duty.
With all that being said – the Sound of the Silence from upper management of the police and fire departments is DEAFENING! These guys know what these cuts will do for the safety of our residents, they’ve spent their 20+ year careers learning what is needed to ensure the safety of those they’ve sworn to protect. As residents, we also take for granted that the leaders that have been put into place as department heads will have the fortitude to say what must be said in public to the Board, even if it’s not popular or in line with what the board or Village Manager want. But, these qualities are also part of an effective leader. I offer the following research paper to you, Executive Leadership by Ted Poszywak of the Frederick-Firestone Fire Protection District. In it, he points to many characteristics that a leader must possess. While i’m not going reiterate the whole thing (i’ll leave that for those of you who are inclined to research like I am.) I would like to point out a few areas which speak directly to the Sound of Silence we are currently experiencing from our leaders. Traits that all leaders should possess of which there are 9 but the following is most applicable: Creativeness – the leaders must be willing to try something different; Communication – The leader must be in touch with the reality of any situation and speak the truth to constituents; Character – the leader must know the difference between right and wrong and have the fortitude to do what’s right; Courage – The leader must be dedicated to the course of action they decide on, even if it costs them Popularity; The biggest test of a leader will come in times of crises, when all of the traits will be needed to see the organization through. Given the failure on some of the biggest points of that list, it’s clear to me that our leaders don’t have the traits necessary in order to lead.
The Chiefs (a term inclusive of Fire Chief, Police Chief, Director of Public Safety, and Deputy Chiefs) are the Top Guardians, the Top Protectors, the leaders of a public safety department and they have an inherent duty, through their Public Oath of Office, to speak, in public, about the effects that the level of service, both good and bad, has on the residents that they have sworn to protect. The public expects Police and Fire Chiefs to look out for the resident’s best interests, we trust that. Call me an idealistic sap but, these guys are supposed to be above the politics, above the bickering. True Leaders. They’ve said for their career that they believe in their oath so much, that they will give their lives trying to save another. How then can they not act when the public is in need of them? Not doing so, in this residents opinion is an utter failure – their Oath and promise shattered – the ultimate betrayal of a public’s trust. Trustees and Politicians can always be counted on to either do whats popular, in their own best interest or what’s needed to be re-elected and to lie to the public about it to suit their needs. Village Managers can be counted on to carry out the will of the politicians – or in some cases divine an agenda of their own design. The Check and Balance to the system is the Guardians – the Chiefs, standing before the board and telling them it’s a bad idea and WHY it’s a bad idea. After all, we can’t really expect resident Trustees to actually understand the intricacies of a Police or Fire department’s needs or responses can we? Even Village Managers don’t have the training required to know that. (Except – we have a public safety director that hasn’t had any fire service training, so that part falls on the Deputy Fire Chief to stand up and do the right thing) But for the top Guardians of our Village to stand silently by while the politicians and Village Manager eliminate the village’s ability to protect it’s citizens should shake the resident’s confidence in their Village to the very core. It has certainly shaken this resident’s confidence to the core.
The very fact that I’ve had to create this site to get the word out, that the local firefighters have had to do a press release to get the word out while our Top Guardians stand by silently pisses me off! And it should piss off every resident in our town! On a side note: I’m proud of my Local Firefighters for adhering to their Oath to protect me and my family, and would like to thank all of them for the dedication and service they provide to me and my family 365 days a year. This one hits close to my home – these guys have been at my house because we needed an ambulance, and their professionalism that day shined through, so call me a bit biased – I never said i was objective. If you’ve never had to call 9-1-1, you truly don’t understand what it’s like to actually need the services that they provide, but you’ll certainly appreciate them on that day.
So here’s my call to arms for the Chiefs: Do the right thing and tell the politicians on my village board during a public meeting that their plans for the village endanger every citizen. You have all spent years and careers learning about what’s required to achieve a minimal level of protection and response, and almost all of you live in town and your families are effected by the change, you all know whats right .. now act on it – or Resign and Leave. If you lack the fortitude to do whats right, let someone else who has it take your position and do what you can’t. If you get fired for doing what’s right – you’ve maintained your Oath to the public, your pride and your integrity. (And you could aways turn around and SUE the crap out of the village for wrongful termination – which I would love to see at this point .. someone’s gotta tell them enough is enough, and they certainly spend enough on lawyers – that might be the only type of person they actually listen to.)
And now, my call to arms for the residents: Take back what’s yours – VOTE NO CONFIDENCE in your trustees by voting them out office the moment they come up for reelection. Don’t even sign their petition to get on the ballot. They have violated our trust as well. Residents, call your trustees and tell them you want to be protected, you want public safety services. You want more police officers in your area, and you want the fire department to get there in less than 4 minutes with a vehicle that can help you immediately! Tell them you want what you always assumed you had (and did for many years.)