Friday, August 6, 2010

Kangaroo Court

You may not believe this, but occasionally, we screw up. As much as we don't wanna admit it, every so often we run into/ding/dent/scratch some equipment to the point where it can't be "corrected" in the station and must be reported.

As these type of events are potentially very costly to the K.B.F.P.D, the district takes a dim view of motor vehicle accidents and thus is not hesitant to hand out discipline for the negligent actions of our members.

As the membership of the K.B.F.P.D. abhors any form of discipline, no matter how egregious the offense, a very formal process was developed to ensure that our membership is treated fairly when mishaps do occur. A Vehicle Safety Review Committee was formed to affix the blame on motor vehicle accidents and mishaps.

We fondly refer to it as the kangaroo court.

The court consists of four members:
  • A District Commander from the K.B.F.P.D, usually one assigned to days so they won't have to pay hi/her overtime for the meetings.
  • A representative from the Sheriff's Department, usually the senior motor officer. He drags the session down with inane drabble such as the vehicle code and other pertinent laws.
  • A representative from a city that we protect. For the last ten years, a cousin of  mine has filled this position. (where the hell was he when I was an engineer and could have used a friend on the court?)
  • A representative from the K.B.F.P.D. Firefighters Association. Hopefully not one who is kissing managements ass by serving on the committee. (you never know who wants to make District Commander one day)
The committee meets once every two months or so, depending on committee member availability. They announce the meeting about a week or so ahead of time . Miscreants who have damaged District vehicles have the option of attending the meeting when their case is heard. Some do, some do not. Those that do are given an opportunity to present a defense as to why they backed over that old lady. My cousin tells me the good excuses, most are pretty lame.

If a member is unfortunate enough to have a second accident within a year, his attendance at the kangaroo court is mandatory. A member appearing in this situation will likely present his side of the event and will do so in a very impassioned manner. That person is looking at a couple of days off, which hurts the wallet.

The committee can determine three findings pertaining to an accident:
  • Preventable - This places blame solely on the driver/operator. Sorry Bozo, you screwed up.
  • Non-preventable - This absolves the driver of any blame for the incident. This is usually the finding when one of our rigs is hit while parked at an emergency scene or someone runs a red light and hits us.
  • Preventable, driver not at fault - This is used when another member of the K.B.F.P.D. causes the accident, other than the driver. An example might be that a firefighter is serving as a back-up man and guides the engineer into a pole. Another might be that the firefighter who controls the door remote prematurely presses the closed button, causing the apparatus bat door to close on the rig.( I have had both happen to me)
Once the committee determines the cause of the event, the offender is notified of the determination and the findings are also forwarded to district staff. The operations chief determines discipline based on S.O.P. and on the driver's history, the severity of the event and what will hold up under a grievance hearing. Punishment ranges from a letter in your file to time off, to demotion, then to termination.

About three months after the incident, the hammer will finally come down and the pee-pee whacking will commence. I always found it disheartening, as once you start to heal from the event, another part of the process will arise and scratch off the newly formed scab. By the end of the process, one is usually pretty worn from the length of the ordeal.

I guess the answer is not to screw up. Easier said than done for some of us.

Any body wanna guess what this is and how it came to be in my garage? Here is a hint-

Click to enlarge

All I will say for now about these two pics, is that I went to the kangaroo court committee on the matter and presented no defense. I was guilty as charged and got a nasty letter in my file. Whaddayagonnado?

They say there are two kinds of driver/operators in the K.B.F.P.D. Those that have hit something and those that will. As I am a captain and rarely drive, it is unlikely that I will to appear in front of the court again.  If I am forced to do so,  I just hope my cousin is still on the committee.

Thanks for reading,
A safe Schmoe


  1. After modifying a few of our own doors to that condition, we started to spec doors with vertical hinges over the wheelwells. Now we have mostly roll-ups, can't knock them off but they have other issues.

  2. Looks like somebody forgot to close the door when going on a run.

  3. Two incidents come to mind that I remember from growing up.

    One was an engine company somewhere in Alabama a couple of decades ago. Having been dispatched for mutual aid for a fire at an apartment complex the engineer was faced with an bay door that got hung up in it's track before it was all the way up. The radio antennas and light bar were sacrificed for the greater good. Not sure of the after story.

    The second was a small town department in Eastern Iowa a decade or so ago that sheared an equipment bay door off their brand spanking new rig (as in first run ever) when they rushed out a little too hastily. LOTS of people had something to say about that. Not sure how the engineer fared but I'm betting he changed his name and moved to a different continent.

  4. Looks like it would make a darn good tool cabinet door!

  5. Yeah, it wasn't too hard to figure out. I have no one to blame but myself. I am the fool who left the door open and the fool who didn't do the "golden circle safety check" and the fool who tried to drive out of the station with it still open.

    I felt really bad about it, but most everybody took it easy on me. The one guy who gave me a real hard time over it (now known as Capt. Bully) ripped another door off of the same unit a few months later. Rest assured I paid him back.

    It is in my garage to prevent it from showing up someday at my retirement dinner.

    Thanks for the comments.