Tuesday, August 11, 2009


"Tom Here"

"Hey Chief, It's Schmoe. How are you?"

"I'm good. What can I do for you?"

"Well, I'm sorry to bother you at home, but I thought I'd give you a heads up. You will be receiving a memo from me next shift recommending that we terminate Firefighter Struggle."

A short period of silence followed by a few soft chuckles and a groan comes from the receiver.

"Are you sure you want to do this? I'll back you up, but one and two are going to look at this one real hard. Plus, the training chief has a stake in this."

"I know Chief. Believe me, I've been thinking about this for quite a while. My fear is that Struggle has the absolute best day of his career and squeaks by with an 80. The second that test is over, he will go back to being a 65% guy. Our last drill was awful, the one before was almost as bad. We are still having to go over stuff that he passed on his six month test."

"Yeah Schmoe, I've been reading the daily training notes, I agree. How about the other stuff, the stuff around the station?"

"Well Chief, that's what makes this hard. I have never had a probationary employee who works as hard as Struggle. Maintenance, attitude, work ethic all of that stuff is out-freaking-standing. It's the critical stuff, the ability to perform under pressure and to work with a minimum of supervision, you know the stuff we get paid the big bucks for. That's whats lacking. Decision making skills aren't all that great either, Plus those evolutions that are mentioned in the training notes. I've been losing sleep over this."

"O.K, shoot me the memo, I'll call number two, I'll let him call number one and the training chief. I know your documentation is solid, just do me a favor and double check it. I know this is going to be scrutinized"

"All righty Chief, thanks for your help on this."

"No problem Schmoe, thanks for the heads up, this is going to be a pain in our ass for a while."

"I know, see ya."

"Good bye."

Thats it. That phone call happened within 60 seconds after finally making the decsision to ruin someones life. It was not a decsision that was arrived at on a whim, countless hours of thought went into it. It was one that I knew needed to happen, but kept hoping some switch would come on and improvements would occur.

Sometimes, I still wonder if maybe there was another option, that some way to salvage Struggle's career was out there and I just couldn't find it. People have ran into Struggle, he is doing well and has another good career going.

I last saw Struggle in a court room. I was sitting with the Chief of the Department waiting for the trial to begin. Our attorney and Struggle's attorney went into chambers with the judge and Struggle came over to say hello. We had a nice conversation, of course we didn't discuss the case. I was glad to hear Struggle was doing well, as was Number One.

After 10 minutes or so, the judge came out and told us that there had been a settlement and dismissed the jury. It turned out that the district had settled for less the cost of a well used car. The amount wouldn't even cover Struggle's legal fees. I felt good that I didn't have to testify and that we had "won", but it still bothered me a little that we paid anything.

I know Struggles lawer probably got most of the cash to cover his expenses. We later found out that Struggles was talked into litigation by another unsuccessful rookie. We won that case too.

We always do.

Thanks for reading,
Just another Joe, keeping the wolves from the door.


  1. That was a tough call (on a personal level) but as the "boss" and the person responsible for the lives of thousands, the right decision, hard but right. As for the court time, yeah since when do we get to sue if we are fired for not doing the job right? Ahh thats America !

  2. I trained and worked with "booksmart" medics that weren't worth a crap in the field. It just didnt translate. Hey the job isnt for everyone.

    Kudos for doin' the right thing Capt.

  3. I don't know about your department but, on mine (law enforcement), our documentation for the termination of either an academy recruit or a probationary employee is legion. We've learned over the years what kind of package must be assembled for such a case. And it is VITALLY important that you weed out the unfit troops AS SOON AS POSSIBLE before they, via civil service, acquire a vested interest in the job itself. As I've always said in training, if a probationary employee and specifically a recruit can't shine like they've never shined before, then you KNOW it's only going to go downhill once they've "acquired" a vestment to the job itself.

    You and I are disappointed when we see payouts made; to the attorneys it's just number crunching.


  4. I know it was hard, and I'm sure it sucks, but I'm happy for you in a way. If he can't do the job when it really counts, his termination may have saved someone's life.