There's been much said about the level of discourse on social media, both in and outside the fire service. Having been involved in a social media incident with my fire company, I know that the rhetoric can devolve to a point that can make seasoned veterans, men who have volunteered their entire adult lives, saved people, and carried on a family tradition, brought to the point of considering leaving the fire service because of the words of others in the fire service based on a video.
Individuals making judgements based on a single perspective. Mean spirited comments from people who have never, and probably will never, have the decency to get all the facts before passing judgement.
In another fire, I witnessed leaders from the same area hold a rail and convict other leaders based on some scanner traffic and other comments. Again, without all the facts and from perspectives not even on scene.
In these and many other cases, after finding out all the facts, there were no equal corrections or apologies in the same channel.
But the judgement in the fire service does not stop there. All too often, I'm witness to firefighters making judgements about the people we serve, often within earshot, much less social media. Lately, anyone involved in something new, like Pokemon Go, is a target of not only derisive comments, but snide looks.
When we decided to join the fire service, we did so with one charged goal- to serve the community. Not a specific part, but the whole community. What is not a responsibility is judging who we serve or serve with. And yet, we continue to judge others for many reasons.
Leaders need to step to the front and stop the apparatus floor kangaroo courts, the back channel backstabbing, and shunning by making individuals have dialogues with each other and resolve differences. Also, while everyone is entitled to say whatever they want, if you represent yourself as a firefighter and member of an organization, and make comments that disparage anyone served by that organization or others like it, then the organization has the right to discipline the individual based on the rules set by the membership of that organization.
So the next time you think about making a judgement on another, whether in the fire service or out, take a minute to think about the effect on that person, and how you'd feel if someone passed similar judgement against yourself. And if you find yourself not caring, think twice about being part of any service organization.
Empathy is not a character flaw.