Don’t Take Police, Firefighters For Granted

In the wake of tragic events like 9/11, Columbine and Aurora, Colo.; Newtown, Conn.; and now Boston, Mass.; the town of Carroll; Cleveland, Ohio; and so many other tragic and senseless acts of violence and/or terrorism, one needs to look at one of the constants in these acts, and all others like them, and that is the selflessness and dedication of the responders and rescuers who put themselves at risk to serve and assist those who have been affected and those who might still be in a dangerous situation.

Arguments take place annually when city/county/state budgets are being drawn up, and one of the biggest causes for argument concerns public safety. My opinion regarding this argument is one of wonder and somewhat disbelief as to how any budget preparer, or voter, could think about cutting personnel and/or equipment in areas of public safety.

We all know that law enforcement/fire safety persons put themselves in harm’s way for their communities, counties and states. They may even be asked to assist on national levels should emergencies arise which need outside assistance. We’re talking about going into life-threatening situations, almost exclusively, for people they don’t even know.

I know there’s much concern for costs of overtime, and “perks” that have been negotiated in previous contracts, and the rising costs of some benefits that public safety personnel receive. I think both sides can, and should, sit down and do some “give and take” here, but in my opinion, in no way, shape, or form, should personnel be cut in either of these areas.

Often times we see police officers riding alone as they do their jobs. Yes, they call for help/backup but with everything you see going on today, with gun and gang violence as rampant as it is, my opinion says there should be two officers in every car while on duty. This is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Even many domestic disputes today often result in one party (or both) assaulting the other with some type of weapon. These public safety persons are as important to our communities as military personnel are to our country. We shouldn’t put price tags on what they provide us each and every day of our lives, just as we shouldn’t send our military into battle undermanned and underequipped.

With regard to fire safety departments, fires are unpredictable. What looks like it might be a “small” fire can go out of control in an instant. Often times neighboring fire companies are called in to assist because more manpower is needed. A firefighter can’t fight a fire constantly. There needs to be rest periods, times to rehydrate or breathe fresh oxygen. For all of this to be feasible, there needs to be ample personnel at every fire, yet we seem to focus on cutting manpower and equipment, when budget talks roll around.

We had an incident at our home years ago, where my family had gone to bed and I stayed up to watch some television. While I sat in my living room, I smelled something burning. I looked around, I went outside to see if anyone was burning wood, but never found anything. I sat back down, and the smell intensified. I went back through our kitchen and caught a glimpse of flame coming from the starter of our dishwasher. It was turned on as we did (and have since learned a valuable lesson) before bed and apparently there was a short in the starter.

Luckily, I had an extinguisher close by. I put out the flame, then went upstairs and woke my wife and son and told them to go outside before calling the fire department. It was 11:30 p.m. and within five minutes there were five trucks arriving at my home with lights a-flashing and sirens a-howling, and I was grateful for every one of them. They checked the house thoroughly before telling us it was safe to return. Fortunately, damage was limited to the dishwasher itself, but boy was I glad we had the department we have in Jamestown. I think they deserve every consideration, as I feel about the police, when it comes to everyone’s safety, theirs included.

There are other places to make cuts, starting at the top, with lawmakers on all levels, taking the scissors to some of their benefits and downsizing office staffs, having them drive their own cars, buy their own gas, and being a part of Social Security when the time comes just like their constituents.

There’s much wasted spending in government, there are many citizens who abuse what they receive in government assistance, and many (not all) who abuse privileges to serve by making decisions, at times, which are more self-serving, as opposed to public-serving. Then when decisions need to be made on how to reduce spending, or keep taxes as close to where they are, one of the first areas to be considered is public safety.

We cannot put price stickers on public safety. It’s not fair to the communities, it’s not fair to the taxpayers who pick up the tab for public safety, it isn’t fair to the public safety employees who put themselves in jeopardy of injury for the protection of others, and it certainly isn’t fair to the families of those public safety servants who have to wonder/worry each time their loved one leaves the home to go out and do their job.

We shouldn’t accept police/fire departments to be undermanned. We shouldn’t accept one officer riding in a car while on duty. We shouldn’t accept fire departments having to maintain skeleton crews in their attempt to protect communities. When it comes to budgets we should be cutting the fat, not the bone. And police and firefighters should never be taken for granted.