The Mills’ Death as Anti-Union Agitprop
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you have no doubt heard of the January 25th incident in Washington, DC, where an in-quarters truck company crew ignored multiple and repeated cries for help from the public after 77-year-old Cedric Mills collapsed right across from the fire station.
At the watch desk was a probationary firefighter, also a graduate of a very controversial cadet program, who appears to have done the right thing by repeatedly notifying the truck officer in charge and other senior firefighters of the need to respond. Instead, it seems they lounged about, literally “taking to their beds”, as if in an antibellum-like southern swoon. (“Oh, Rhett, what WILL we do?”)
Some will know that DC is divided into four geographic quadrants and to add farce to tragedy, the Office of Unified Communications failed to include the correct quadrant, northeast, causing dispatched units to go instead to the same address in northwest, a considerable distance away.
Mayor Gray’s Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, Paul Quander, published a report of the affair describing it in all its tawdry detail.
Few would doubt that DCFD is on a rocky shoal when a lieutenant and three firefighters can’t grab an AED and EMS bag to walk across the street in order to render aid to a dying man.
Quander’s “report” summarizes with two sections: 1) disciplinary action and 2) remedies.
Neither section proposes to address the deep leadership, structural and cultural flaws that allowed such an event to occur. In fact, we can be sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg, as the Rosenberg legacy lives on.
Here’s how Deputy Mayor Quander addresses the issue:
“Memorandum regarding assisting the public- the memorandum is an official order instructing members to provide assistance whenever possible to individuals in need, regardless of whether they were dispatched to the scene.”
It is a statement on the leadership and culture of DCFD that such a memorandum is necessary given the department’s mission.
It’s also an astonishing statement on the ignorance and incompetence of Paul Quander to insert the words “whenever possible” in the memo. This is not a department that needs an escape clause.
DCFD Trial Board
Quander saves his “best” for last using the report as an opportunity to trash the trial board process and the collective bargaining agreement.
He leads with pure bull shit: “unlike the majority of public safety organizations in the country, captains and lieutenants within FEMS are members of the same collective bargaining unit as rank and file members they are assigned to supervise.”
Company officers throughout the US are routinely in the same bargaining unit as firefighters. In any event, the implication is that as a result, the city is unable to discipline effectively. Quander refers to the collective bargaining agreement as the basis for “limited authority to discipline” conveniently forgetting the fact that the city agreed to, and is a partner, in it.
In addition, the board is made up of two chiefs and two captains, thus ensuring that management is over represented as no firefighters serve.
Using the Mills incident as an opportunity to trash the bargaining unit is in itself an example of ineffective leadership, this time at the mayoral level.
Finally, whatever flaws may exist in the cadet program, and there seems to be quite a few, the hapless cadet/probationary firefighter who tried to summon his comrades should be re-assigned to an effective supervisor, if one can be found.
He has suffered enough for his co-workers gross incompetence.
(photo courtesy DCFD.com)