Two New Fire Departments
By Tom O'Connor, Treasurer
Things have certainly changed since our last Main Line ... some for the better, and some for the worst. On a positive note, we have a brand new administration that seems willing to listen to the rank and file to try and improve things around here. With Chief Joanne Hayes-White and her new administration the department is taking a turn towards a new era. An era in which the entire command staff has been changed, with a focus on new ideas and how to implement positive changes. Chief Hayes-White and her new administration appear to be ready to confront the challenges faced by our department in a head-on and aggressive manner, certainly a departure from our prior administration.

However, on a less than positive note, the fire department seems to have entered into another new era ... the era of the snitch. While Chief Hayes-White and her administration focus on our current budgetary problems and fixing our EMS crisis, a separate subterranean group of “leaders” appear fixated on

bringing down the fire department in the public eye. No one’s privacy, medical condition or possible chemical dependencies will stand in their way ... they appear to be focused on two simple goals ... the destruction of the Union and the fire department.

While our new administration focuses like a laser beam on protecting the San Francisco Fire Department and all it stands for, the new generation of “snitches” focus on destroying all that this department stands for ... all just to advance their own interests. The goals of this “snitch generation” seem to be power, promotions, attention and misguided glory. Read on to see the parallel paths these two groups are following.

New Administration

If there is one signal being sent out by our new administration it is that things are going to change ... for the better. Chief Hayes-White has installed a whole new team, and it is a team that has proven that it is open for new ideas and is ready to listen to the people who are on the front lines doing all the work. This attitude of the new administration can be seen in all of the appointments, from Chiefs Sanchez, Massetani and Taylor, to Chiefs Siragusa and Ortiz-Schultz. Most notable of the changes though, seems to be the new EMS management.

Gone is yet another EMS administration that seemed determined to impose it’s will upon the fire department, and in is a new chief who seems ready to fix our EMS problems with an eye towards both the future and the department’s morale, both of which are irrevocably intermingled. Chief Ortiz-Schultz brings with him an understanding of both Fire and EMS issues, as well as an understanding of city politics and the bureaucratic obstacle course that must be traversed in order to implement change.

Another harbinger of change is Chief Siragusa, who is ready to tackle our training issues for new recruits as well as improve training for current firefighters and officers. Perhaps most notable is the new courses offered at the Division of Training, for firefighters to advance their careers ... free of charge. A very refreshing premise from the new administration ... the premise that education matters and it will be offered to you ... free.

Notable also are the new Chiefs of Suppression and Administration, Sanchez and Massetani. Here are two Chiefs who have always had respect in the field and in the firehouse. Here are two Chiefs who are willing to stand up for everyone out in the field, everyone doing the job, everyone who puts in to make this department just what it is. They are also Chiefs who are willing to listen to ideas and do what is best for the very department they have invested so much in.

This new administration is not only facing budgetary and fiscal problems though, they are also facing a group of enemies from within. A group so “brave”, they wear hoods on TV and have their voices disguised. A group so “courageous” they speak anonymously to other city agencies, all in an effort to bring down the SFFD. They will from now on be called the Snitch Generation.

The Snitch Generation

During all the problems and crisis faced by this fire department, from budget cuts to affirmative action, from the introduction of women into the fire service to the consent decree, one line was never crossed ... and that line was comprised of a person’s paycheck, privacy and family. Through all the years of infighting this department engaged in no one tried to get another person fired, no one trained cameras on a firehouse, and no one jeopardized a person’s ability to support their family.

With this most recent series of televised newscasts and articles a line has been crossed, and that line was crossed by the new generation of snitches who have no problem “outing” an SFFD employee. These snitches do so in order to get their time in the limelight, advance one of their lawsuits, or to gain or begrudge a promotion. The consequences of these “outings”, whether for chemical dependencies, medical disabilities, or other personal matters is immaterial to these snitches. They will do anything in their power to take down this administration and this Union ... and if you think they are done selling out anyone else, you are wrong. These little snitches are just getting started. Previous comments about alcohol, the EMS merger, “playground bullies and nerds”, etc, etc. were just the beginning.

The snitch generation has deep, deep roots. They are embedded with the media, they are involved with the City Attorney’s office, and they are involved with a Civil Grand Jury ... all of whom are more than willing the sacrifice the good name of the SFFD. There is however, one way to beat them...

How to Win

The only way to beat the snitch generation and their allies is to work together and rebuild the fire department. If all of the disparate factions of this department can bury the hatchet, forget about the past, and work on building the future, then the snitches will be left without any ammunition or audience. If this department can work together on promotions, EMS issues, racial and gender issues, labor issues and the whole spectrum of divisive topics that face us ... then, and only then, will the snitches be silenced. The issues don’t have to be solved immediately, they just need to be addressed and worked on. If the issues aren’t addressed, and if the problems are allowed to fester like they currently do, then the little men who wear hoods on TV will only gain more and more power.

This department, and all the men and women who serve now, and those who served long before us, deserve far better.


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