Practical Support for the Changing World at Work 
Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
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Consider This...  December 2000/January 2001 Issue Number 18

Is a monthly electronic newsletter which links current events and issues to the daily challenges faced by fire and emergency services managers. Current topics in the area of sexual harassment, diversity management and conflict resolution will be discussed.

We hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
Let us know what you think!

Upcoming Events

International Conference of Women in Firefighting, March 13-18, 2001 Cobb County, GA. Contact Women in the Fire Service at for more information.

National Center for Women in Policing, Sixth Annual Conference, April 4-8, 2001, Palm Springs, CA. Call 323-651-2532 for more information.

"Can Sensitivity Be Taught? Rethinking Diversity Training" April 30- May 6, 2001, Sacramento, CA. This workshop will be presented during the FDIC West Conference. For registration information, call 888-299-8016.


In the News

LAPD Consent Decree

On November 2, 2000, the Los Angeles City Council approved a historic settlement with the federal government to reform and restructure the Los Angeles Police Department. The consent decree will put the department under monitoring by the US Justice Department, and will impose sweeping internal changes.

The court-ordered plan, which came in part as a result of the Rampart scandals, would:

  • Implement a new computerized "early warning" system to track the law enforcement activities of all officers, thus enabling LAPD managers and supervisors to address at-risk conduct.
  • Prohibit officers from relying on race or ethnicity when making traffic or pedestrian stops, unless searching for a particular suspect.
  • Create a new LAPD unit of specially trained officers to investigate officer-involved shootings and other uses of force.
  • Institute a study and review process to improve the way the LAPD responds to people with mental illness.
  • Expand the roles of the Police Commission and its inspector general.
  • Give a civilian commission the power to evaluate and even discipline the police chief regarding how the plan is being implemented.

The consent decree was met with less than enthusiastic response from city officials and department members. Police union officials have announced their intention to go to federal court to insure that the city meets and confers with them on key provisions. A monitor for the plan will be chosen by March, and will be responsible for writing quarterly reports on progress made. The LAPD is the largest police department ever placed under court monitoring as a result of the Department of Justice's authority to sue police agencies alleged to have engaged in a "pattern or practice" of civil rights violations.

Source: Los Angeles Times, November 3, 2000

News Brief

The New York City Fire Department's new cadet program has produced the most race and gender integrated class of fire recruits in the department's recent history. The new class of recruits includes 40 of 141 who are women or members of minority groups. Currently, the department is 94% white, and includes less than 50 women out of over 12,000 members.

Source: New York Times, November 16, 2000

Sexual Harassment Update

The ADA and You

A recent news item in a Denver paper detailed the fire career of Johnny King, a long-time volunteer member of the Castlewood Fire Department and in the years prior to his recent death from a heart attack, a career training officer with the Parker Fire Department. Mr. King, a Vietnam veteran, was also a double amputee, missing both legs.

A recent magazine article described the career of Doug Blevins, kicking coach for the Miami Dolphins. Mr. Blevins, a four year veteran with the team, was born with cerebral palsy, and has spent his life confined to a wheelchair.

Although these two examples are not direct results of the recent legislation known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), they are good illustrations of how perceptions will be changing as a result of that law. There was a time when fire departments and emergency services organizations eliminated candidates from consideration for employment just because it perceived them to be unqualified. If a person was missing part of a foot or hand, for example, that person could be disallowed from even testing for the job.

No more. The ADA, currently being clarified through numerous lower court cases, no longer allows such generalized rejections of people because of disability, if reasonable accommodation can be made for that person's condition within the work environment.

The law is complicated, and anyone facing an ADA challenge should seek legal counsel that has specific experience with this law. The law is also being clarified on a nearly daily basis. In one recent case, a federal court ruled that a woman's belligerent attitude and poor interpersonal skills were a result of clinical depression, a condition covered by the ADA. The court ordered that she be reinstated in her position with accommodation.

Don't think you are immune from ADA claims because you are running a fire or police agency. Such a belief can be very costly to the organization in the long run. Instead, adopt a proactive attitude. Do a job analysis to identify key requirements of each position. Identify areas where accommodation could be made. Most importantly, learn about the law and be prepared. It is likely that every employer, including those in fire and police services, will have to deal with the ADA, and sooner rather than later.

Sources: Fast Company, September 2000
              The Denver Post, November 2000
              The Legal Intelligencer, December 13, 2000

© Linda F. Willing, 2000