Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The "Next One"

If you have any doubts why the citizens of San Diego don't get it, you only need read another backwards diatribe by Union Tribune writer, Michael Stetz. In the Wednesday edition of this joke of a newspaper, Stetz penned an article titled, "Fire official overlooks alarming paychecks." Before you go on, take a minute or two to read what he wrote.

I will try my best to stay free of dragging everyone into my miserable world of self-loathing. But beware, I am going to share my thoughts on reality, viewed from where I stand. If in some way this bothers you, close this blog and move on. I talked about the event in a prior post that Stetz uses to again inflame readers, "Ignorance is Bliss - But Deadly". Stetz goes off on the usual tangent saying Frank De Clercq, President of the Firefighters Union, should "look at how the city fire department staff has contributed to San Diego's financial mess," which Stetz claims has helped lead to the kind of cuts that are putting citizens in grave danger.

Stetz regurgitates the inflammatory and exaggerated salaries printed in his tabloid, attempting to bolster his pathetic argument. Stetz ignores reality and conveniently omits the reasons for the high overtime rate of firefighters in San Diego. He continues the bashing of city employee retirement benefits and attempts to lay blame to the brown outs at the feet of firefighters, as well as the increased contribution owed by the city to the retirement system, and he tosses in the city deficit for good measure.

Frank is following in my footsteps, or me his, when he points out the cuts to firefighters and the closing of the stations is a matter of life and death. "This is the first of many incidents that are going to happen" says De Clercq. Stetz attempts to downplay and minimize the cuts, at the same time justifying them saying "But what hasn't been cut? Libraries, recreation centers, beach amenities...." Then Stetz demands "real evidence that the brownout did indeed contribute to the death of Taylor before all this alarmist talk."

Stetz came to San Diego in 1997 from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where he worked for The Patriot-News. Stetz graduated from Towson State University in Maryland, with a degree in English.  It is apparent from his writing, he is a company bloke, who would rather cull past diatribes for insertion into his pieces, than do any real investigation into what he writes about. San Diego lacks ANY real investigative reporter skilled in writing clear, articulate, honest and factual pieces. The Union Tribune should think about changing their name to the San Diego Star or San Diego Enquirer or something similar. The name would be closer aligned with the quality and content it publishes. There is little in Stetz's bio to indicate qualifications to take on the types of writing he is attempting.

I will allow fire personnel to provide the arguments related to the fire that claimed the life of a citizen in San Diego. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out the dangers of closing fire stations in a city that is already lacking adequate stations to meet the needs of its citizens. The game of Russian Roulette being played at the taxpayers expense is criminal. But for Stetz to blame fire staff for the need to close stations is pathetic.

"Constant Manning" is a term for ensuring minimum staffing. National Standards for the safe deployment of fire personnel suggests a level of staffing for safety to the firefighter and citizen. In San Diego, the city decided years ago, it would cost less money to intentionally under-staff the fire department and staff fire trucks and engines with fire fighters working over time. Stetz and others attempt to paint fire fighters as over time whores who are in some way stealing money from the taxpayers and the cause for financial problems at city hall. No one is willing to tell the truth about this issue.

There is a full time team of fire fighters (or use to be) whose full time job is to schedule fire fighter overtime to ensure EVERY fire house is adequately staffed. Much of this overtime was mandatory. The city opted to pay this over time in-lieu of hiring an additional 125+ fire fighters to ensure minimum staffing standards. This was a financial decision made by the city's management and saved the city millions of dollars over the years. Some how this is lost in the assault of the fire fighters by politicians and the press.

The final two paragraphs of Stetz's diatribe show his true colors and make personal a political agenda being waged by him and his colleagues at the Union Tribune. Stetz writes; "Well, when the "next one" does hit, De Clercq should spend a little time examining his paycheck as a city fire captain. He made $154,184 last year in base pay, overtime and something called retro-pay. He also got a $1,350 uniform allowance. How will his pension be paid for? Higher taxes, or more cuts to city services. Including the fire department."   

The "next one" will come and I guess if saying this, is somehow a weekly dose of doom and gloom, so be it. Governments priorities in San Diego are completely askew of reality. The press plays a large role in this disparity, with their continued assault of public safety employees and the unwillingness to accurately report the dangers facing citizens. Will the "next one" result in a serious injury or death? Will a fire fighter be injured or killed?

Sunday night at 2348 hours there was a collision resulting in injuries on the 56 at Camino del Sur. The ambulance arrived at 0008 hours, twenty minutes after the first sounds of the collision. The nearest station is located at Salmon River Road and Paseo Montalban, about a mile and a half to two miles away. Was this station closed Sunday also?      

Monday, March 22, 2010

Poor Self-Esteem or Self-Loathing

Self-loathing is an extreme form of poor self-esteem. It is the sense of loathing one’s self – a common theme of people with poor self esteem. I was shaving this morning and while looking in the mirror I kept thinking, “For 53 years old you still got it together McMillan.” Poor self-esteem?

I went back and re-read my last post and the first comment from someone who made the observation I am in some way making an effort to “drag everyone down into your miserable world of self-loathing.” WOW. I always subscribed to the tenant; things in life work out better when you pay attention to and accept the way things are. But what creates tension with this philosophy is so many of these “things” can be changed and do not need to be accepted, if you are willing to say or do something.

Many of these “things” can be changed for the better if one is willing to take a chance. As an example; Paul does not like the grey creeping into his hair, making him look older, so he can have his hair colored to keep his appearance looking younger. But for the woman who is head over heels in love with the man she has been dating for the past year and friends begin to point out his not keeping promises; disrespecting her in front of her friends and family; bringing up seeing him with others and their belief he may be fooling around behind her back; she makes excuses for his actions and pretends their relationship is strong, when in reality she knows the truth and is hurting inside. Making a change does not come easily and pretending things are OK is not wise.

Some would say a helpful way of dealing with troubles is to accept the realities that must be accepted and change what you believe would be most practical and advantageous to change. Like the poker player sitting on a short stack; accept that you have to play the cards dealt. You need to weigh the odds, your position at the table and how much is riding on the hand. You may be able to strategize how you play your cards by bluffing all in, but reality is, sometimes you are going to get dealt some tough hands and no matter how much you hate the cards in your hand, they are your cards and you have to play them.

As police officers we are trained to see what is wrong with a given incident. Human nature is to look at things and see what is wrong. We are not adept or experienced at seeing what is right. There is a Buddhist parable I read a while back that tells of the blind men who came across an elephant in the jungle. One of the men describes his discovery at a tube, flexible and cylindrical and suspended in air; another described his discovery as a boulder suspended over the path while another insisted it is a pillar and not suspended at all. The reality is, like these men, we do not see the fullness of reality, we only see parts of it and from different perspectives, reality is different.

Self-Loathing? Miserable world? Embarrassing? “The sky is falling” and “The world is coming to an end” pessimism? I am asked to give it a rest.

Let’s try something and see where it leads. This may be asking a lot of some. First let us recognize there are different ways of looking at things. Accept that you tend to bump into elephants from a different perspective than me. Think about changing your perspective and view the elephant from the perspective of the person opposed to your perspective and remember this new perspective is just as real. You can even change your perspective again and therefore your reality. Your ability to remain comfortable with these different perspectives will no doubt result in fear, confusion, and an unsafe feeling as well as a feeling of anger. You will no doubt be more comfortable with the perspective that is shared by those closest to you. But don’t condemn me and others for having a differing perspective because we view reality from the shoes we fill, not those worn by you.

I need to lose some weight, my teeth could use a whitening and my hair is need of a trim. I should laugh more and read more than I have been writing. I should volunteer more at Abraxis High School mentoring children struggling to fit in. I should get my taxes done and finish the job of overhauling the front yard at my daughters house. While I am at it a remodel of the master bath is long overdue. Self-Loathing? Miserable World? Not even close.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ignorance is Bliss - but Deadly

I have spent some time over the last few days reading the comments to the last post and watching the goings on in San Diego. The response to my last post was amazing in that people outside our realm are starting to ask the right questions. The mayor is having trouble controlling the spin and clearly is feeling the heat. His policy of controlling who can speak to the press and what is said is beginning to create questions as other public safety incidents occur.

Friday, a man died in a fire at an apartment building at the corner of 22nd and Broadway. The fire station a couple blocks away was closed as a result of the city mandated "Brown Out," as a budget savings mechanism. The first fire engine to arrive came from Barrio Logan, not the Golden Hill station a couple blocks away. The first "fire truck" to arrive, was on scene within a minute of dispatch. The trucks operator could not get the ladder to work (one of the young, enthusiastic new fire fighters?) and was not capable of getting water on the fire (fire trucks carry ladders and equipment for rescue ONLY). The second truck (Fire Engine) arrived about four and a half minutes later and began the assault of the fire (fire engines carry hoses and pumping abilities to put water on the fire). The inability of the first truck to get a ladder to the roof, slowed the ability to vent the roof and fight the fire. Response times across the city are on the rise and in time a fire fighter will end up getting seriously injured or killed as a result. The spokesperson for the department did his best to belay blame and down play the lack of an engine company in Golden Hill. The president of the Fire Fighters Union was not so protective of the city.

The events of the last few weeks are but the beginning of what is sure to be more deaths and serious injuries to members of the public. The ignorance created by false and misleading information from politicians; a lax press and a public in denial, will take years to undo. The mayor's failed policies and destruction of public safety has single handily turned San Diego from one of the safest cities in America, to one that is no longer a safe place for anyone. The systematic elimination and removal of officers from task forces; the elimination of support personnel; the reduction of investigative positions; the exodus of over 400 experienced members of the department; and the lack of any real hiring, has rendered the men and women of the San Diego Police Department incapable of doing the job expected of us. This is not due to a lack of ability, desire or willingness, but more a result of no longer being able to do more with less. Don't you hate hearing that phrase; "Do more with less?"

The public expects the same level of service they have become accustomed . The problem is simply a matter of having our hands tied and our limbs cut off. Take as an example; a service area that five years ago had a Detective Sergeant, five Detectives, and Investigative Aide to investigate reported crime and no less than five patrol officers and a patrol Sergeant in the field at any given time; now being policed by two detectives and often no more than three officers and a field Sergeant. The service area shares a Detective Sergeant; the Investigative Aide has been replaced with a volunteer (can't wait for the first court appearance) and three detectives who retired or transferred were never replaced. This service area is a growing area where there is still new housing being built and the population has grown by leaps and bounds over the past seven years.

We have eliminated our horse patrol and harbor unit; reduced the number of canine units and moved patrol officers from field duties into positions whose duties were performed by the now eliminated civilian support person. The smoke is thinning out and the mirrors quickly loosing their luster as critical incidents occur and the ability of public safety in San Diego to respond, exposed. Minimum staffing for patrol officers has been cut to unsafe and unacceptable levels throughout the city. The fire department has resorted to rolling brown outs, closing up to eight (8) fire stations daily to save money. Life Guards are now filling the hole left by the loss of the SDPD Harbor Unit, at the expense of life guards in towers and available for water and surf rescues, expanding their area of responsibility to as much as 50% on some beaches.

If history is any indication, as we move closer to the summer months, crime will increase and the level of violence will escalate. While many will have the public believe crime is at an all time low, reality is, crime is increasing. The apathy of victims, coupled with the inability of officers and citizens to connect in a timely manner, have resulted in fewer crimes being reported. Residential and commercial thefts of all type (Burglary, Grand Theft, Petty Theft, Embezzlement, Extortion, Auto Burglary) are epidemic in virtually every community of San Diego. Citizen apathy has resulted in many to just clean up the mess and move on. Many will tell you they believe nothing will come of reporting their crime, while others will tell you they do not want to report the crime to insurance for fear of higher premiums. Then there are those who will attempt to make a report only to fail in their attempts. The victim will be referred to the telephone Report Unit, where they will be placed in the Que, which at any given time could contain 300-500 victims waiting ahead of them. After waiting several days, the victim moves on and no report is completed.

The elephant in the room right now is the fear of many officers; who is going to be the officer killed because of these cuts? The lack of adequate and safe staffing and the lack of experience has in the past contributed to more officer deaths in San Diego than any city in America. In the 1970's and 80's we lost 12 officers in rapid succession. We spent years building a department that provided for a safe citizenry and at the same time expanding and improving training that allowed for fewer officer injuries and deaths. The use of canines, SWAT, air support, less than lethal weapons and adequate staffing of experienced officers, contributed to this safety and security. We have fewer experienced officers in the field; fewer canines; and now we hear one helicopter is grounded for required maintenance the city is balking at paying for. The fuse has been lit and we are all waiting for the result.

When is the public going to understand the dangers facing them as a result of the cuts to public safety in San Diego? Ignorance is bliss until someone dies. Who will it be?