Loose Lips

Can the D.C. Fire and EMS Department Ever Be Fixed?


Earlier this month, District firefighters’union president Ed Smith did something he hadn’t done in a while: He felt good about the District’s fire chief.

Well, the District’s almost fire chief. Kenneth Ellerbe, the embattled head of the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, is still in charge after his announcement earlier this month that he’ll leave office on July 2. Smith met with his interim replacement, Assistant Chief Eugene Jones, a week after Ellerbe revealed his plans.

“He’s got a clean slate with me,” Smith says. “I’m ready to go.”

Whatever the opposite of a clean slate is, Ellerbe and Smith had it. The department’s tortured relationship with its rank-and-file over the years has included a union walkout on one of Ellerbe’s speeches and insinuations from Ellerbe’s boss, Deputy Mayor Paul Quander, that disgruntled firefighters had started sabotaging their own ambulances. Then there were the problems that had nothing to do with labor relations, including the interminable wait time for ambulances and Medric Mills’ death outside a fire station as firefighters dawdled instead of helping him.

With Ellerbe headed out, it’s time to ask why the fire department continues to generate scandals and rancor—and whether it will ever stop.

The fire department’s woes precede both Ellerbe and Mayor Adrian Fenty–era chief Dennis Rubin. Reading old articles about the fire department makes it seem like DCFEMS is reliving a tragicomic, sometimes fatal version of Groundhog Day. In 1980, facing staff shortages, the department cut training from 10 weeks to just six days. Eleven years later, in 1991, the Washington Post caught firefighters using their horns and sirens not to save lives, but to get to McDonald’s.

Decades later, the District’s gone from financial basketcase to deciding how to spend its millions of dollars in surpluses. But the fire department’s problems haven’t changed. DCFEMS still faces a shortage of personnel, especially for ambulance staff, and picayune corruption like using sirens to get Big Macs has been replaced with alleged prostitution at a firehouse.

According to former reporter and Maryland volunteer firefighter Dave Statter, who runs fire department news website Statter911, Ellerbe didn’t help matters. Instead, the chief, whose office didn’t respond to LL’s requests for comment, made them much worse.

“I don’t think you should downplay or dismiss what’s happened in the last three years,” Statter says. “It’s set them back very far.”

Another thing hasn’t changed: the department’s racial animus. Even in the first Marion Barry administration, the department was described in the press as “racially troubled.” Some of that trouble has centered on the sometimes-discontinued cadet program that brings District youth into the department. Ellerbe restarted the program after Rubin, who describes the policy in his book about his time running the department as a funnel that lets troubled people wreak havoc in the department, discontinued it.

“He brought it back without solving the problems of the past,” Statter says.

The divide in the department has lately centered on disputes between out-of-town DCFEMS staffers and District residents in the department, with all the symbolism of white people from places like West Virginia and Pennsylvania taking government jobs in a predominantly African-American city. (Despite the stereotype of the District firefighters as long-distance commuters, according to fire union statistics, 90 percent of the force lives in D.C., Maryland, or Virginia).

Firefighters could afford to live so far away because of the department’s shift schedule, which had them working for 24 hours straight, then off for three days. When Ellerbe moved to implement shorter, more regular shifts—a move that would make working in the District more difficult for far-flung firefighters—he further inflamed tensions with the union. When firefighters protested Ellerbe, then-DCFEMS spokesman Lon Walls tweeted that their actions were racist.

Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who chairs the D.C. Council committee that oversees DCFEMS, says Quander and Mayor Vince Gray’s focus on firefighters living outside the District amounts to some sort of “code,” but says he doesn’t know what they mean by it.

For D.C. Democrats bigwig Ronnie Edwards, making firefighters live closer to the District has nothing to do with race. Instead, Edwards, who participated in a small rally in Ellerbe’s support after Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh called for him to resign as the department’s woes mounted last summer, says he just wants firefighters close to their stations in the event of an emergency.

“We want to try to keep the jobs with the people who live within a certain radius of D.C., and right now it’s being controlled by individuals who are not D.C. residents and don’t really have D.C. residents’ best interests in mind,” says Edwards, who blames some of the department’s problems on fire department members who “will cause chaos in order to make a point.”

LL tried to reach the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters’ D.C. chapter, a group of African-American firefighters that has previously supported Ellerbe. Attempts to contact the group, however, ended in either defunct email addresses or wrong numbers. Wells says that, as Ellerbe exits, rank-and-file members of all races have become united in discontent with the chief.

Even if the District’s firefighters and management stopped fighting, though, the department would still have a long way to go. For one, DCFEMS brass have waffled in the face of a paramedic shortage on whether the department should continue to train recruits as both firefighters and paramedics, or just as one or the other.
“They have to decide which they’re going to go with and just do it,” says Wells.

With vehicles frequently out of service and two ambulances catching fire on the same day last summer (the Metropolitan Police Department ruled out sabotage), department officials ordered an audit on how the department’s fleet maintenance had gone so wrong. Meanwhile, as the department outsourced its vehicle work to other city agencies, the Department of Public Works repaired DCFEMS ambulances with street signs.

Basically, the department is a bundle of problems. How to untangle that knot isn’t so clear. Wells backs some concrete solutions—taking fleet maintenance to private contractors, for example. People familiar with the department, though, kept returning to the nebulous solution of “better leadership.”

“It can be done,” Wells says of improving the department. “They just need to have the kind of leadership and drive to do it.”

Whether the District can attract this mythical transformational fire chief to a department that seems oriented toward ruining careers isn’t clear. At least there’s time to find out: Gray says he won’t move to appoint a permanent chief before he leaves office in January.

“I think some from the conversations that I’ve had would be turned off from the idea of a real inconsistent leadership above the fire chief level,” Statter says.

Getting a top-notch fire chief to solve the department’s leadership travails could face one more hurdle, then: the people above the fire department, not within it. That problem, at least, is one D.C. voters have a say in.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • DCShadyBoots

    Yes. The problem can be solved by hiring more firefighters that live within a 100 mile radius of the city. Better yet in the DMV region.

  • drez

    Applicants can claim DC residency and get a preference.
    IMO quality hires should be the key and the cadet program needs that as primary goal.

  • DCShadyBoots

    You won't have such resistance to scheduling changes if firefighters lived closer to the city. Besides, this is the nation's capital, we naturally need our emergency responders to live close to the city.

  • Inside looking in

    Here's the answer. Firefighters don't want to ride the ambulance. Anybody that's says otherwise is telling you an outright lie. If you take the firefighters out of EMS operations all will be fine.. Also Councilman. You have to ask yourself why would a government agency with its troubled.past be allowed to continue to flounder. Councilman Tommy Wells has no clue as to what goes on internally in DCFEMS. He just digests what Local 36 shovels into his head. He has never come out into the stations across the city to talk DCFEMS employees.

  • Speed Saves

    The only way to maintain consistent strategic leadership is to have the Fire Chief report to a board that has a staggered replacement schedule. The department (and really, any DC agency) whipsaws from one Mayor's whim to the next.

    As for EMS operations: firefighters are great at dealing with EMERGENCIES. They're not so good at dealing with chronic medical issues. But, neither are most non-firefighter EMS personnel. It's time to encourage and support hospital-based EMS, and vertically integrate pre-hospital and peri-hospital medicine.

    Finally: the "leadership" the FD needs is the kind that engenders engagement. Rebrand. Refocus. Recognize. Trust. Train. But, who is going to step up to the plate when turnover is high, careers are ended, and politicians meddle?

  • DCNozzleman

    "...quality hires should be the key and cadet program needs that as primary goal."

    Yes, that is the way it should be run, but it never has.

    "You won't have such resistance to scheduling changes if firefighters lived closer to the city."

    Actually, you would. Just ask most of the DC firemen that live in the city.

    "If you take the firefighters out of EMS operations all will be fine.."

    They were two separate entities and then guess what? David Rosenbaum happened.

    "He has never come out into the stations across the city to talk DCFEMS employees."

    False. He's actually visited firehouses quite frequently since he became the Chairman of the Public Safety Committee.

  • SrFireOfficial

    "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." (George Santayana).

    Appointing Kenneth Ellerbe to the top position in the DC Fire & EMS Department was Vincent Gray's mistake. The DC Council owns part of this problem also for failing to properly vet Mr. Ellerbe. Mayor Gray and the Council have failed to learn from relatively recent history when Marion Barry appointed his cronie, Theodore Coleman; to the same position 30 years ago. Essentially the same problems from the 1980's exist today, just change the names and dates: The apparatus fleet was in disarray and the evening news had stories almost nightly about ambulances getting lost enroute to incidents.

    Kenneth Ellerbe rose through the ranks of the department and separated under a dubious plan to become the fire chief in Sarasota, Florida. His tenure in that position was marred with allegations of sexual harassment before he returned to DC to take the helm after Dennis Rubin. The Washington Post reported that Ellerbe's predecessor, Chief Rubin, left a detailed report of the state of the department including the need to hire more paramedics and continue the purchasing cycle for replacement heavy apparatus for the aging rigs in its fleet.

    The argument by many to expect a faster response time to a major catastrophe within the District proper by forcing employees to live in the city or a given radius lacks foresight. Assuming an event of such magnitude ever happens that requires the commitment of all of the department's resources, what are all the "recalled" personnel going to do?

    Sure, there will be some "street-ready" reserve apparatus that can be manned and respond to other calls for assistance but there will be more personnel standing around in firehouses than fire trucks for them to respond on. Secondly, if such an event does occur, there will be long operational (12-24 hours) periods that will require on-site relief of personnel which will have to be accomplished by other department members. Recalling all off-duty at once leaves no reserve of fire and rescue staff to provide the relief necessary.

    To the best of my knowledge, this department, like many of others of its size in the capital region; has a recall plan to systematically bring off duty employees back to work in times when a certain level of its tactical resources are deployed. In fact, during times of recent spectacular multiple alarm fires in the district, mutual aid companies from Montgomery, Prince Georges', Arlington and Fairfax Counties worked on the scene with DC or covered DC fire stations. Finally as a little sidebar, as soon as the off-duty personnel report to a fire station, their pay starts at probably time and a half.

    The next fire chief should be willing to support a well-managed and disciplined cadet program that is open to all DC high school students. Each cadet would have to go through a police background screening before entering the program and successfully complete the academic, practical and physical requirements established within its curriculum. After successful completion of the cadet program, the cadet may be given preference for hiring into the agency. Similarly, he or she should support a very modest preference for District residents, on a parity of points equal to that of an armed services veteran would be afforded. To reinforce the paramedic ranks, a preference should be given to qualified applicants who are nationally certified paramedics. The work shift should not be altered, there are a number of studies that demonstrate the current "24-72" platoon system provides emergency workers with sufficient recovery time between work periods.

    Yes, as a fire service veteran with nearly 30 years of experience, I can unequivocally say that some, if not, most calls for medical assistance are not life and death emergencies. These are the calls that wear down emergency personnel and resources on a nationwide basis; it is not a problem unique to DC. To the best of my knowledge, any DC resident may request ambulance transportation and the Fire-EMS department is obligated to provide the transportation whether their condition is emergent or not. Fix this and the number of transports will decrease, the availability of transport units for genuine (the patient will die in the next 60 minutes) emergencies will increase. It is safe to predict that the service life of the ambulances and morale of the personnel on them will increase.

    It should be no secret that there is considerable discord between "fire suppression" and "EMS only" employees within the agency. Part of the main reason it exists is because of the disparity in pay and benefits between the work groups. A forward thinking incoming fire chief should focus on developing, implementing and executing a strategy that unifies (pay, benefits, work rules, chain of command etc) these two work groups. It will be an epic, herculean task but will result in more efficient operations and a higher level of accountability. The Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department provides some of the highest quality pre-hospital emergency care and it was accomplished without rebranding the agency. Ellerbe changing the decals on the apparatus didn't fix anything.

    Perhaps a new fire chief would recommend it is time for DC's newest firefighters (trained to the EMT Basic level) to complete a certain number (200?) of "ambulance tours" for them to learn all facets of emergency medical care, not just what they see from the platform of a paramedic engine company. While this “stick” sounds extreme, the carrot at the other end should be that the employee would not be subjected to riding the ambulance because there will always be incoming new firefighters that have to complete their ambulance time. A new fire chief should also be able to analyze EMS demand trends and implement a "peak EMS unit" program for high demand periods and staff these transport units with willing and able personnel on overtime.

    The DC Fire & EMS Department is staffed with many dedicated employees who would bleed green polka dots if ordered to do so. Its next fire chief, whether he or she comes from within or outside the agency can fix these and other issues to move the department forward while maintaining its worthwhile traditions only with buy in from all the principal stakeholders and a strong hands-off policy from the mayor, his/her cronies and city council .

  • Typical DC BS

    One easy way to start - stop the union from having ANY say in operations - strictly pay issues. Then tell the "firefighters" that their ranks will be cut down DRASTICALLY to ensure there are enough paramedics to handle all the calls - the number of fires has gone down tremendously, but the number of firefighters hasn't. The only calls up are medical calls.

  • Terry Miller

    The Fire and EMS Department needs strong oversight. The Deputy Mayor for Public Safety (or somebody performing that function) needs to be knowledgeable about fire and EMS Quander had zero experience with Fire/EMS and it showed. EAch time somebody gets to be chief they usually undo everything done by the previous chief, fire a bunch of senior staff and place all their buddies in top administration positions in the agency.

    Why is this? Because if you are lucky enough to get to the Deputy or Assistant Chief spot, you get a retirement based on that pay. This is why EVERYONE wants to be a chief at least for a little while and all thing they SHOULD be chief, regardless if they are qualified to run any programs or not. That is also why there is a big reluctance to put civilians in any of the top positoins, because they must be SAVED for the chiefs.

  • http://Ward3dc.com Ward3er

    The real issue here is not the policies it's the oversight and it's one of the main issues of having State, County and Local authority powers in one body -- the DC Council. I suppose I'll have to blog about the whole bloody mess later.

  • Publius

    Having all of your responders and emergency personnel living in the city may seem like a great idea to the untrained eye, but it has some drawbacks.
    Ask leaders from the FDNY, or look at the studies done after Sept. 11th, 2001. Firefighters & paramedics were recalled on that tragic day, and once they reported since no accountability plan had been established for recalled personnel) these emergency responders self deployed to the scene, wreaking havoc on the accountability plan in place on the scene. Leadership on scene had no idea who was in the buildings until days later...
    Now put this "everyone lives in the city plan" into place in a city significantly smaller than New York, and that ranks number one as a terror target on any list.
    So a terrorist attack occurs; anything of Biological or Radiological nature boom all your emergency responders are dead, whether they are on duty or not. A chemical attack/incident or an incident of similar nature to 9/11 May not initially wipe out your ranks but since everyone lives in the city, it will be no time before firehouses are inundated with anxious first responders with no equipment to use or apparatus to respond on. So these responders self deploy to go help at the scene and something goes tragically wrong, now personnel who were not in the original incident, and not originally accounted for die or are seriously hurt, what is the department to do now? Now we've lost a significant portion of manpower, those spits need to be filled on overtime those costs go up, along with associated medical expenses so on and so forth.
    Sounds genius

  • Engine10

    DC should create a volunteer corps of firefighters to supplement the DCFEMS. The Bethesda Chevy Chase Volunteer Rescue Squad regularly responds from Maryland into DC on medical calls; (they also used to fight fires in DC).

    The opportunity to volunteer would allow for more DC residents, (especially veterans), to get training and become certified as firefighters. The DC volunteers would therefore be able to compete with other volunteer firefighters from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina, etc., for jobs on the DCFEMS. Those with prior firefighting certification are usually hired first on the DCFEMS.

    The Metropolitan Police Department is supplemented by a reserve corps of 1,000, gun carrying with arrest powers, volunteer police officers.

    Every minute a fire burns it doubles. Common sense says that if a DC firefighter lives 2 or three hours away from the city, there is not much he or she can do when there are multiple working fires in DC. With so many DC firefighters living so far away, our city would burn to the ground were it not for mutual aid from volunteers in Maryland and Virginia.

    If DC had a volunteer fire department, the city would be safer. The communities would have a relationship with those who take an oath to save lives. Most important, the DCFEMS decades long culture of apathetic indifference to people on medical calls would probably cease to exist.

  • PopeyeDCFD

    Unfortunately as with everything else in DC, actually fixing it takes a back seat to political agendas and defending sandboxes... IMHO the fix is actually quite simple for a dual role, all hazards dept. Hire candidates who will work in a newly created 'EMS Division' which closely mirrors the Firefighting Division, the template already in place for 100 years. Have them work in this division for as much time as it takes to attain some seniority and when attrition in the Firefighting division demands it, offer an opportunity for those who want to crossover to do so internally.

    -First and foremost this would draw an incredible number of young, mostly Paramedic candidates from all over the country who would jump at the chance to do a few years in the EMS division and then crossover.
    The demand for a chance to work as a big city firefighter was seen under the last chief (not trying to say he was perfect...) who went national to bring in medics and filled a huge number of spots with medics...

    -As these members matriculate up into Suppression it begins to fill suppression positions with experienced dual role FF/medics who can then fulfill the role of first responder if ambulances need to be waited on.

    -It also means when they become officers they can be moved into and out of the EMS division to provide quality and efficient EMS Supervision bc of their experience and their focus on being dual role providers from the moment they were hired, not just firefighters. We see this with the members who are medics who are dedicated to being highly proficient at both missions.

    -It further allows those few who wish to only ride an ambulance to decide not to crossover, or to crossover for better pay and then transfer back to an ambulance. Pay increases, step increases and longevity increases would just mirror those in suppression with the impulse for higher pay pulling them upward into dual role while providing a much better retirement for those wish to stay 'EMS only...'.

    -Since this would divorce EMS staffing from Suppression, it would allow the dept to hire as many EMS personnel and add as many ambulances as it needs and concentrate them wherever they want them because each division could be staffed according to the number of personnel needed in it. It would also solve most of the 'mailed all over the city' details. With budgeted OT for power-shift units, (which people would EAT up...) the need in the busiest areas could be easily met. It would also allow the dept to slightly overstaff itself and be able to rotate ambulances and suppression units out of service for more consistent and in-depth training.

    -It also helps reduce wear and tear on the members. Young bodies are much better able to handle the constant running and back issues, etc. This would also enable the dept to maintain the 24/72 shift schedule that enables the best physical recovery times and with the larger number of units available would reduce the fatigue associated with larger call volumes on each individual unit.

    -Perhaps biggest of all, this would create an entire division with its primary focus being EMS with a Medical Director overseeing it and directing that focus and training.

    I know that solving the depts problems is what we do everyday around the dinner table, and I am sure there are certain problems with it that would need ironing out, but it just seems fairly simple to me, again IMHO...

  • Titanic

    @Engine10...."Those with prior firefighting certification are usually hired first on the DCFEMS."
    There is no hiring preference for firefighter certifications. The District's hiring preferences for the fire department are for DC residency & military service.

    "Common sense says that if a DC firefighter lives 2 or three hours away from the city, there is not much he or she can do when there are multiple working fires in DC."

    This argument is made often, but according to DCHR 92% of the fire department personnel live in the DC metro area, not hours away.
    Also, fire personnel living in DC will NOT speed up response times in the event of a major disaster. No matter how dedicated people are to the District and fire department, the first priority in a major disaster will always be the safety of their families. If your family is in DC, you are going to make sure your family is safe BEFORE reporting.
    Besides, as others have pointed out, even when you report there are NO RESERVE TRUCKS to ride. Any response would have to be coordinated with mutual aid from the surrounding jurisdictions.

    "If DC had a volunteer fire department, the city would be safer."

    PG county uses a combination Paid/Volunteer model. There are many times in certain firehouses where volunteers fail to post for lower priority calls. To say that volunteers would solve the problems is short sighted, at best.

    @TypicalDCBS... Contrary to what the current administration would have you believe, ALL calls are up in DC, not just ems. The fire department runs fires EVERY DAY. Not to mention car accidents, hazmat responses, technical rescues, etc. On top of that, companies are performing crime patrols, installing smoke detectors, and coordinating blood pressure/blood sugar checks at community events, amongst other things.
    And with a population that's growing by approx 1,000 new residents every month and a department whose runs have gone up by 20% over the last few years, the LAST thing DC needs is fewer firefighters.

  • Rampart Sqd 51

    Ellerbie set the dept back years. The amount of damage he did in his short tenure will take more than one new administration to repair. DCFD has plenty of smart ,experienced, dedicated folks which should be obvious from reading some of the comments. Get out of their way and let them do what they know how to do best. Give them the funding and resources and morale, performance, and output will all improve

  • regs1

    the quote:

    "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." (George Santayana).

    This certainly applies to the DCFD, yes I did use DCFD instead of DCFEMS, The major problem is the past couple of fire chiefs have tried to make the EMS part of suppression. This mistake started around 1980 and continued to today, What existed before 1980, EMS was a separate division, has its own hours, own command structure, and it even function.
    Then came the economic decisions, the first was used to hire civilian EMS workers, why, they received less pay and benefits. In a couple of years you could see this system was failing, the number of firefighter detailed to supplement EMS civilians was growing. The solution found, eliminate the division and place within the firefighting division.
    Spin forward to today, you can see how that worked out.
    Over the past couple of years we heard about every excuse about why EMS in DC has been a problem, heard just about every lame brain solution you can think of from the past two fire chiefs and their administrations.
    So far nothing has worked except the EMS workload has increased, so forget about looking to find volunteers – the VFD departments are having problem finding volunteer recruits, do you believe that the district be any better, Also the argument of creating a EMS branch is dumb, look what happen to NYC EMS, they are now part of NYFD.

    OK solutions, one of the major problems is the Firefighting shift, yes its great for the FFD, but not for EMS, working 24 hours on a EMS units that runs about 15+ calls is a problem. So the next Chief when he comes in will have to take a hard look at EMS, and do a complete redesign. If he follows what LRB did and not change the EMS and keeps it part of FFD, well history will repeat itself. If you separate EMS and FFD mske them seperate divisions again, at this level you can administer each one and find solutions that will fit that division. Lets make one item clear here EMS, and Firefighting have unique problems, stress, and even training requirements. At the basic level yes you can cross train, but each one does have its own unique set of problems, and when combine yes you have a combine skill set, but not a master of that skill set. So you take a Firefighter from FFD, reassign him to EMS, teach him that skill set he needs, let him work the NEW EMS schedule, same with and person assigned to EMS, he can be reassigned to FFD, retrained in a short time, and work the FFD schedule.
    If a person makes the argument that is only hired to do firefighting, well have them take a look at DCFD patch or seal, and then let them explain what part of the District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department he does not understand.

    Now for the problems mentioned about the FFD, there is a very simple fix, let the command structure come back, get rid of the micromanagement that exist today, Let the captains run their companies, place them in charge of basic discipline, give them guidelines, let them work with the Lt's and have then run their shifts, and most importantly hold the officers responsible for their actions. Right now I have seen too many AFC, DFC, and BFC reach down a run a company, and worse yet, a firefighter can call a AFC or even the FC to complain on minor items. Under Rubin everyone lived in fear of a AFC and his friends, under LRB it was the FC and Friends, this has to stop, if not again history will repeat.

    The next Fire chief has a rather large job to do, he needs to undo the damage of at least 5 administrations, especially the last two. Who will take this job?? that the 1 million dollar question, the next chief will have to change the department. The first item will be to change to politics of the department. The unions will have to change to accept new ideas, and yes even a shift change for EMS, and reassignment of personal. The EMS union same thing, EMS command structure needs to be created – what going on now – yes its working, but at what level? The DC government will have to give the funds to the DCFD to get new apparatus, build new firehouses, and EMS houses, and to hire and train people. Yes train and hire paramedics, and pay them what they deserve.
    The last item is to redo the promotion system, Up to the rank of Captain is a testing procedure, points given for education, and time, tie breaker is residency. Extend this to the rank of DFC or even the AFC. You be surprise of the results, right now BFC and up, still the best friend policy and thus one of the problems the DCFD has.

  • DCShadyBoots

    Start from scratch. The problem isn't management. It is in the staff.

  • Retired Jake

    The "sins" of past chiefs not withstanding, the amount of meddling by politicians who have no clue what is involved in managing a modern, all-hazards department MUST come to an end in order for this department to function effectively. From my vantage point DCFD (I'm using those initials very intentionally) is "managed" by an ad-hoc band of local politicos rather than by the individual they hired to do so!
    When the fire chief, police chief, EMS chief, etc. are merely figure heads who must kow-tow unflinchingly whenever the mayor or a council person grunts the citizens of and visitors to the city DO NOT have a functioning public safety operation. And by the way, establishing a "public safety commissioner" or similar czar to "oversee" all public safety ops. isn't the answer. That only adds another layer of bureaucracy.