As a firefighter or public safety government employee, what are your free speech rights under the 1st Amendment?
As we have seen a number of firefighters have lost their jobs over postings on their social media sites, thinking they had a protected right to say anything or depict otherwise offensive pictures for their shared audiences. The issue of “words matter” when speaking, brings one back to the often quoted but erroneous statement of “shouting fire in a crowded theater” opined by…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on January 6, 2019 at 11:00am — No Comments
I always like to review year end legal issues for the fire service, even as I routinely write about them, as an interesting study in firefighter legal behavior over the past year. It is a reflection of where we are and where we are going. The short story is our behavior is not changing as fast as the fire service would like as we still see complaints and litigation popping up every week.
We continue to see patterns of bad legal behavior, in spite of the frequent lectures and articles…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on December 11, 2018 at 3:00pm — No Comments
As pre-hospital medical providers we see a lot of patients in all sorts of medical disrepair. The public and patients expectation is that we put a full effort into doing the best we can with our limited field resources and either take the patient to a medical facility, leave at home, send the patient to their primary care or specialist physician or call the…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on November 24, 2018 at 4:00pm — No Comments
It pains me to have to write an article about this issue, but with the recent widely viewed broadcast of a Supreme Court nominee accused of sexual assault when the perpetrator and victim were both in high school and the current state of affairs related to women and minorities in this country; it is an article that needed to be written addressing the elephant in the room.
As a father of five (5) daughters, all adults with their own families and lives, I feared for their safety as young…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on September 30, 2018 at 9:00pm — No Comments
It is well recognized that firefighting is a dangerous occupation. In addition to the trauma or cardiovascular events killing or injuring firefighters, a slow and insidious enemy has been stalking firefighters for many years and although the injury is not immediate, the effects appear many years after exposures, are long lasting and may lead to the early demise of the firefighter as documented in numerous firefighter deaths from cancers.
A majority of states now cover…
Added by John K. Murphy on July 23, 2018 at 4:30pm — No Comments
Many of us in the public safety business have always believed that through property taxes or other publicly funded methods, the fire service would be able to provide a full range of services in an ever-changing and challenging environment.
There are a lot of hands reaching out for limited pubic money to adequately fund parks, police, parks, potholes and other necessary services provided by government and now is the time to discuss the elephant in the room, cost…Continue
The Alameda County judge recently ruled that Oakland officials had a "mandatory duty" to ensure safety at the doomed Ghost Ship warehouse, leaving the city potentially liable for a fire where 36 people died. Attorneys for the dozens of victims and their families, as well as reports by Mercury News (CA) have detailed numerous visits by police, firefighters and building officials in the years before the deadly Dec. 2, 2016, fire. The maze-like Fruitvale district warehouse with…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on May 6, 2018 at 2:30pm — No Comments
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” in a response to a schoolyard taunt containing hurtful words many of us have probably used when verbally assaulted by the schoolyard bully. That reasoning is generally untrue as words do hurt and I am sure that you were hurt when the bully made fun of your race, clothing, religion or some other verbal and possibly physical assault against you.
In an era of social media, seemingly insensitive comments…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on April 16, 2018 at 6:30pm — No Comments
Our mission is to protect the community and our firefighters with all of the training, equipment and protective gear money can buy. Of course there are the smaller and less affluent fire districts barely responding to calls for service or emergencies and all-volunteer fire organizations are equally challenged to place sufficient firefighter resources in the community for response.
One of the common factors for all departments are the laws and statutes that dictate their conduct and…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on March 9, 2018 at 10:00am — No Comments
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the "right of the people to be secure in their persons ... against unreasonable searches and seizures." In most cases, the Constitution requires the government to obtain a warrant supported by probable cause to search a person. However, when government has a special need for a search, such as protecting public safety, courts have upheld the search(s) if it is found "reasonable" after balancing the physical intrusion against…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on January 22, 2018 at 10:24am — No Comments
This year has certainly been interesting related to the legal issues facing the fire service. We continue to see the fire departments in the news for many high profile fires, rescues, service calls and the other good things we do on a daily basis.
We also continue to see the fire departments bogged down in legal controversies that reduce the effectiveness of organizational cohesiveness and at times polarize our personnel and departments especially in the area of personnel management…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on December 12, 2017 at 11:30am — No Comments
In the sports world there is an increasing awareness of collision induced concussions between football players, soccer players, kids on the playground and others engaged in contact sports other than dancing. There are many other ways to get a concussion. Some common ways include fights, falls, car crashes, and bike accidents. Concussions can also happen while participating in any sport or activity such as football, boxing, hockey, soccer, skiing, or…Continue
When you examine the cause of litigation in the fire service there is one important fact that we need to address. We sue ourselves internally as opposed to be sued by outside sources with the following statics obtained from Curt Varone’s website.
Added by John K. Murphy on September 30, 2017 at 10:00am — No Comments
A recent case in New York involving a police officer, taking 10 years to resolve, revives a sleepy law we do not hear much about called the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
This case (Wright v. City of Jamestown), involved an Army Reserve officer with the Jamestown (NY) police department initially filed his USERRA claim against the department in 2007 after he was denied…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on July 26, 2017 at 12:08pm — No Comments
The current opioid epidemic has significantly increased the call volume for departments responding to citizens suffering from drug overdoses. Not a shift goes by without a call to assist someone suffering from an overdose.
When I was a street paramedic, we would receive calls from the public to assist individuals overdosing with alcohol, mushrooms, Freon, airplane glue, Benadryl and cough syrup containing…Continue
An extremely dangerous drug is on the street is affecting first responders including EMS, police and firefighters making a dangerous job all that more dangerous. This is not related to the prescription strength medication if taken in the wrong dose or administered erroneously creates its own danger.
A recent event in New Jersey involved a police detective searching a home and found a bag of white powder. The officer removed a scoop of powder for testing. When he was…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on June 19, 2017 at 10:00am — No Comments
Many fire organizations have Human Resources (HR) departments that deal with many of the issues related to the needs of firefighters and staff. HR deals with recruiting and hiring new firefighters, providing information about medical benefits and compensation, ensuring compliance with laws and ordinances, providing a pathway to local EAP Programs and responsible for employee development and firefighter training supporting your training division. HR is…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on June 9, 2017 at 4:10pm — No Comments
While teaching leadership classes over the past several years, I often wonder how long it would take my students to master the Art of Leadership. Is it one or two classes; experiences in the field as a leader; higher education at the Bachelors or Masters level; boots on the ground or a combination of all aforementioned?
Then I wonder about the amount of time it takes to become proficient at our leadership skill…Continue
I am a white male, born in America, enjoying the rights and privileges afforded to me by circumstances. In hindsight, I was born lucky. I have not been discriminated against, as far as I know: I have not experienced segregation, treated as inferior, objectified, regulated, persecuted, nor denied entry or re-entry into my own country. I have white male privilege.
My ancestors immigrated from Ireland, Canada and Germany.…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on March 16, 2017 at 5:30pm — No Comments
We’ve all been there, working in an organization that seems to be leaderless as you rarely see the Chief or members of his or her immediate staff and you respond to a series of Directives or Policies that make you scratch your head.
I have worked for Chief’s that bury themselves in seemingly meaningless activates, sitting in their offices emerging only when there is a major crisis or attending a Board or Council meeting and are seriously out of touch with their…Continue
Added by John K. Murphy on February 26, 2017 at 5:30pm — No Comments