Mobile, AL paper slams FFs
Folks, you'll love this one. Let's give this guy the Ted Rall treatment. If you mannage to read the whole thing without gagging, the authors info is at the bottom.
Give Mobile police, and not Mobile firefighters, a big raise
We have reason to be plenty outraged: A future teacher full of promise was felled by a random bullet fired by a lost soul who might have been rescued by just such a teacher.
And when we're outraged by a random, sense less murder like Denise Cowan's, we struggle to make sense of it: We look for cause and effect, a breakdown in the system, something we can fix, someone we can blame.
If we had banished teen clubs from downtown Mobile, would Denise Cowan still be alive? If we had passed a citywide curfew three years ago, or if Jackson Street had better lighting and more video cameras, or if we had never encouraged development of the bar scene in downtown Mobile, would that have made a difference?
I don't know.
How about if a couple more cops had been on patrol in the entertainment district that night? Downtown businessmen certainly have been screaming for reinforcements since the shooting.
But per capita, downtown is already the most protected part of our city. Wouldn't assigning more patrolmen to the Dauphin Street precinct leave Trinity Gardens or Cottage Hill or Dauphin Island Parkway more at risk?
Amid all of this uncertainly, here is one thing I know for sure: The city of Mobile doesn't have enough cops.
We've been warned for decades, by the last three police chiefs.
And the mayor and City Council members know that we don't have enough policemen: The force's authorized strength is 525 officers. Right now, we have about 474 on the force.
Here's another thing I know with absolute certainty: Our policemen are way underpaid.
Even given the sputtering economy, with city revenues down, we could afford to give our policemen more money -- if it weren't for a silly little rule that keeps the salaries of firemen and policemen the same. It's called "parity."
If you want to give the Police Department a raise, you have to give the Fire Department a raise. (In fact, the way the political dominoes drop, you have to give all city workers a raise.)
To get an idea of how fundamentally goofy it is to pay Mobile police officers and firefighters the same, all you have to do is call Shannon Weekley, personnel director of the Mobile County Personnel Board, as I did this past week.
Weekley has been with the Personnel Board for 45 years, so she knows what she's talking about when it comes to the recruitment of patrol officers and firefighters.
"Back in the'60s and'70s, interest in those jobs was about the same, and applicants would just go ahead and apply for both jobs, and take whichever came open first."
But that changed during the'80s, Weekley says.
The city continued to draw plenty of interest in the fire department, but applications for the job of police officer began to drop off.
The gap is now cavernous. Weekley says the personnel board currently accepts applications and gives a test for firefighters about once every two years.
"We have so many applicants that we'll never get to the bottom of that list."
But they must accept applications and give the test for police officers continually.
"We just don't get enough qualified people who are interested."
She says the Police Department is also more likely to lose employees through resignation, while the Fire Department does not have that problem.
"There is not the high turnover you have with police officers."
Even with unemployment way up in Mobile, not many folks are applying. And officers are leaving the Mobile force for better-paying police jobs faster than we can train them.
Ms. Weekley said she would prefer not to speculate on the cause of this difference in recruiting.
"That would just be my personal opinion."
But here's what I think: While both firefighters and police officers risk their lives for our community, there are big differences in those jobs.
Firemen in Mobile work 24-hour shifts, followed by 48 hours off. When they are not fighting fires, they don't have it all that bad: They polish some chrome, take Sparky for a walk or perfect their recipe for five-alarm chili.
They also get paid to sleep. And when they get off work, many have businesses or other jobs they can conveniently attend to in the 48 hours before they are due back at the firehouse.
Police officers work a more typical 40-hour work week, never getting paid for snooze time, and their day tends to be much less predictable, and less congenial. They might spend the night in a smelly paddy wagon hauling drunks down to the clink, or they might pass the afternoon asking surly motorists for their licenses and registrations, or they might spend the morning in a courtroom with a smart young lawyer who's trying to make them look stupid.
Thus, the stress of their jobs is more sustained. And while officers rarely fire their weapons or get shot, they sweat quarts of adrenaline contemplating those possibilities.
A good cop should be well versed in the martial arts and the Bill of Rights, a skilled social worker, stunt car driver and psychologist, and a good sport about all those Krispy Kreme wisecracks.
In Mobile, they start at less than $25,000 a year.
Like firefighters, many police officers moonlight, working up to 20 hours a week as security guards. (And making way more money than they do on the city's clock.) Consequently, they are not nearly as rested as the crack dealers we send them up against.
I do not mean to disparage Mobile's firefighters: They deserve the same respect as our police. But firefighters cannot transcend the law of supply and demand. In Mobile, firefighters' pay and benefits are sufficient to attract plenty of good, qualified candidates.
And neither do I mean to imply that parity killed Denise Cowan. There will be no easy solutions there.
But we need more cops.
The mayor and City Council should raise police salaries until we have about 200 bright young folks eagerly waiting to become officers, just as we have 200 now waiting to join the Fire Department.
That would be parity.
You can write Mike Marshall, editor of the Mobile Register, at P.O. Box 2488, Mobile, Ala. 36652, e-mail him at email@example.com, or phone him at 434-8674.
A perfect example of a MUTT
Another uninformed, librally educated, social minded MUTT. I wonder how many editorials can be writen about the lifes saved because those fire fighters that "are paid to sleep" can respond to a life threatning call in under a couple of minutes. Making a difference.