1. #1
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    Default A Chester City firefighter was suspended without pay yesterday for refusing to remove

    By Joelle Farrell

    Inquirer Staff Writer
    A Chester City firefighter was suspended without pay yesterday for refusing to remove an American flag sticker from his locker.
    October 16, 2009

    James Krapf, an 11-year veteran of the department, could face more days of suspension if he does not remove the sticker, Fire Commissioner James Johnson said.

    Johnson directed the force's 61 members to remove all decorations from the outside of their lockers over the summer after a firefighter posted a cartoon that others found offensive. The drawing, which firefighters said was posted by a black colleague, showed two black men and included a racial slur.

    Firefighters can post personal items inside the lockers, but the outside must remain "free of alteration," according to the directive.

    Some firefighters didn't think the American flag was included in the ban. The flag is stitched on their uniforms, hangs on their trucks, and flies on a pole out front.

    "The directive says 'everything,' " said Capt. John Barbato, vice president of the department's union. "I never would've thought the American flag would be included in that."

    Yesterday, almost seven weeks after the order went into effect, 11 firefighters were notified that they were still in violation.

    Krapf removed a union sticker and a picture of a truck, but refused to scrape off the flag, a one-inch-square sticker that has adorned his locker for a couple of years, he said.

    "Anybody who finds the American flag offensive shouldn't be working there," Krapf said yesterday.

    "I said, 'No disrespect, Chief, but I'm not scraping that sticker off my locker.' He said, 'OK. Go home.' "

    Banning all materials from locker doors was the simplest way to avoid bickering among the staff, Johnson said.

    "How do we know what offends who?" he said. "I have to play Solomon here."

    Johnson said Krapf would face a two-day suspension if he did not remove the sticker today. Next would come a three-day suspension, and then the matter would go before the mayor and council and could go to arbitration, officials said.

    Walter Miles Jr., the city councilman who oversees public safety, said he did not know all the specifics of the incident. "I strongly back my fire commissioner," he said. "A directive is a directive."

    The Chester City Fire Department has worked without a contract since 2007. Johnson said the handful of firefighters making a fuss over the stickers were trying to gain sympathy from the public during contract negotiations, an allegation Krapf denied.

    Krapf, 31, said he hoped to speak with the union and the commissioner today and reach a compromise. He doesn't want to miss more pay, and he's worried that this will be a negative mark on his record.

    "I certainly can't afford to lose a day's pay, but it's something I believe in," he said.

    Contact staff writer Joelle Farrell at 610-627-0352 or jfarrell@phillynews.co
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    They didnt ban American flags, they banned exterior decorations. He should have removed it and put another one on the inside of the locker. Sounds like someone making a mountain out of a mole hill.
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    I have to agree, it was a blanket ban on "all decorations".

    What if you have a policy against tattoo's, but someone gets an American Flag tattoo. What if you have a policy against putting decorations on helmets, but someone adds a flag. What if you have a directive against non-department issue decorations on your uniform and someone decides to add a flag pin.

    The fact that it is the flag does not give you an automatic get-out-of-trouble-card for violating policy.
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin

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    It isn't his locker, the city lets him use it. Straight forward ban. Remove all stickers and pictures. One needs to pick their battles and this one isn't worth losing a job over.

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    Another shining example of zero tolerance and political correctness run amok.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    Another shining example of zero tolerance and political correctness run amok.
    Agreed. At the same time I have to agree with the others; This isn't worth loosing pay or your job over. Remove the sticker then work with the council/chief/union to modify the directive so that it makes more sense.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    Another shining example of zero tolerance and political correctness run amok.
    Maybe so. But the firehouse is not a democracy. This has everything to do with discipline and nothing to do with discriminating against those who display the US flag.

    BTW, I hope the FF who started all of this is close to retirement.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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    F***'em, scrape off the small sticker and put a bigger one on! or put one on everybody's locker to make it look uniform!

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    Quote Originally Posted by SIMP0LMAN View Post
    F***'em, scrape off the small sticker and put a bigger one on! or put one on everybody's locker to make it look uniform!
    Hurray for insubordination.

    Follow directives, and remove the sticker. It's not that hard people. Once the initial fallout from the offending picture (and the responding knee-jerk directive) has cooled down you can have a logical discussion with the administration. Sit down with administration and make a sensible "locker decoration" policy if its that important do you. See if you can add an exception for "US flags, state flags/seals, department flags/logos, etc".
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin

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    What a bunch of Krapf !
    IAFF

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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    "The directive says 'everything,' " said Capt. John Barbato, vice president of the department's union. "I never would've thought the American flag would be included in that."
    So, "everything" doesn't mean everything? Not your best argument.

    What sucks about this is that nobody sat down and said, these guys live out of these lockers... We've always allowed them to personalize the outside... Let's set up some boundaries for how they can do that. Instead, one guy out of 61 did something stupid and the response is to have a "zero tolerance" decoration policy. It's the easy response to the problem, but rarely the best one in the long run.

    The guys may hate their chief now. Knowing firemen, I'm sure there are a few folks calling him anti-American or communist or some other nonsense. I'd bet lunch that at least one of the 61 blames this on Obama. But if he lets this one guy buck him on this... It won't take long for others to buck him on other orders & directives... And he could possibly lose more respect in the long run by not sticking to his guns.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SIMP0LMAN View Post
    F***'em, scrape off the small sticker and put a bigger one on! or put one on everybody's locker to make it look uniform!
    And sometimes we wonder why it always feels like it is "us vs them" between blue shirts and white shirts....
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    'The fire went out and nobody got hurt' is a poor excuse for a fireground critique.

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    Sorry, I love to display the American flag, but if they say everything that means everything. Just because it is the American flag doesn't mean its above the rules.

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    I guess when many of us are in the middle of trying to keep engine houses open, and the fire companies in those houses properly staffed, this kind of an issue is rather minuscule.
    In fact, I would call it a non-issue.

    Last I checked we are still quasi-military, and as long as the order given is legal, then that order must be followed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jasper45 View Post
    Last I checked we are still quasi-military, and as long as the order given is legal, then that order must be followed.
    Exactly.

    It simply amazes me that amount of people VOLUNTARILY enlisting in the Police, Fire, and Armed Forces who did so believing that there were ZERO rules to be followed and they did not have to do as instructed.
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    Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they cannot get it wrong. Which one are you?

    'The fire went out and nobody got hurt' is a poor excuse for a fireground critique.

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    While I agree that it is there locker and they can set policy for whatever they want or don't want on the locker, there is a HUGE difference between removing offensive cartoons and the symbol of our nation.

    Frankly, I am of the mind that this is just another example of leadership by a sweep of the broad sword. Since I can't make a few people behave I will whip them all. Poor leadership, poor policy, and poor employer/employee relationships ahve led the fire service to this point.

    To me this is a loser all around.
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    Take the sticker off.

    I wonder if that firefighter flies an american flag at his house? I wonder if he observes memorial day in some way?

    Patriotism is more then a sticker. Get off your high horse.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SIMP0LMAN View Post
    F***'em, scrape off the small sticker and put a bigger one on! or put one on everybody's locker to make it look uniform!
    AMEN!!! Brother!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    Another shining example of zero tolerance and political correctness run amok.
    In the words of the great Gonz....


    Bing freakin' O !!!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    Another shining example of zero tolerance and political correctness run amok.
    So, if your Chief issued such an order, would you enforce it? Would you support it? Would you tell the guys it was BS? What would you do?
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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    I personally would ask the Chief to make an exception for a flag, and only a flag. Even put in the directive a size and color restriction as well. Especially since it's on their trucks and uniforms too.

    If not, then I guess the Chief is the boss in the end, and EVERYTHING would have to come off and I would have no other choice but to enforce it.

    Just the whole rule is an example of PC going too far. Because someone go offended at someone else's sticker, the Chief had to waste his time with putting out a rule.
    Jason Knecht
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    I'm not arguing the PC thing. You're right.

    I just came back from a supervision seminar where my group's scenario for the case study was basically a decision made by management that you don't agree with. Bottom line is; you have to enforce it and you have to own it. If you tell the guys it is BS and just do it, you are, in effect, undermining the department.

    That's what is going on here. One sign of a weak leader is to deal with the group as a whole instead of dealing with the specific problem. But he issued the order and, my question is, what do you do?
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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    First of all...

    My boss has more important things to worry about about stuff on a locker.

    The locker room is private area, and as long as everyone behaves and uses some common sense in what they put on their locker.

    Pics of your family, pets, the Colors, Firefighter memorial stickers.. fine.

    Racial and sexist cartoons, hard core porn... Like I said, common sense!

    When we first opened the then new HQ station, we used to give tours of the whole building with the exception of the locker rooms and dorms.. until some stuck up woman complained of he "pornography" in the weight room.

    Her "pornography" was pictures of the proper way to perform the exercises using the Smith machine, the other machines and the free weights.... with models dressed in gym gear.

    Our problem was solved by not giving tours on the living quarters side of the building.
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    Normally I stay out of such debates, but I am willing to chime in here. As a company officer, I have to enforce policy. I am in agreement with most on here, you too, George, It says all, so all decorations are out. Not worth an insubordination jam up. Personal feeling? BS. It's a flag, I have one on my coat, a pin on my frontpiece, in front of the firehouse where I spend 1/4 of my life, it means alot to me. I march every Memorial day I am not working, whether I get along with and want to be marching behind whoever might be chief at the time or not, which over the last 19 years has not always been in fashion. I march to show respect for our Country and those that gave their very lives for that flag and what it stands for. I would handle it this way with my crew, and I don't think it undermines the department. I would say, "Look, guys, an order, such as this one, is an order. I don't like it any more than you do, but my job is to follow orders, as is yours. I removed my stickers, I expect you to do the same. I would not expect any of you to put us in a position none of us wants to be in." Let the union handle it, if they so choose, but like Jasper says, most places have much bigger things to worry about. Anyone who would issue such an order anyway is making an *** of himself, and the dork who put the original cartoon up causing the uproar will have both of their reps damaged in such a way that you won't be looked at in bad light for very long.
    Leroy140 Fairfield, CT Local 1426

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    Bad management! Deal with the person and the one racial posting on their locker. A knee jerk reaction affecting everyone is not the solution. Besides, stickers and decals will make their way back up eventually.

    Take care of the one bad apple, not the whole barrel.

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