What ‘defund the police’ means for Firefighters

Updated September 15, 2020

I hate that I even have to write this. And I hate that this new update brings more bad news.

But here we are, defending our families right to be a firefighter family. 

Defending all that the thin red line has done and sacrificed for. 

Asking, again, for people to consider how vital Firefighters and Medics are in the long run, and how much they do for the community.

Because if you consider defunding the police, it will mean defunding the fire department. And we still don’t know what the IAFF is doing in response to this.

How does that work? let’s talk about it.

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Public Perception is where it’s at

Ask anyone on the street what a firefighter does, and they’ll tell you they put out fire.

They’ll also tell you that they take too much in taxes, sleep on the job and hate women.

… I wish I was exaggerating.

The thing is though, that the PUBLIC does not understand how much Firefighters give to the job. How underfunded our thin red line family is. How much we rely on public safety. 

The Public doesn’t understand how much (insert the worst call ever) has on the mental wellness of a firefighter and their family. 

The public doesn’t understand how without firefighters, their community will literally burn to the ground. How much preplanning and training and fire inspections go in terms of prevention to make sure that fires never happen.

And it’s obvious that the public doesn’t get it. There’s an entire week dedicated to teachers, a month to military, a week to dispatch, a day to nurses, doctors, ems and police. But Professional Firefighters DO NOT HAVE A NATIONAL DAY OF recognition.

It seems small in the grand scheme of things, but even from the top of the government down, Firefighters are simply not a valued profession.

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let’s look at some numbers. 

Now for those that have been here for awhile, you know I’m a numbers and data kinda person. If you’re new, welcome to the land where I try to back up any claims I make with facts. 

Anyone can see why People of Color are frustrated. 

But I have to know. 

Are they going after teachers and politicians and communities for the dismal education system? (and this is a great article about the bias in schools)

How about the OBGYN’s, doctors offices and abortion clinics that are literally causing their community to shrink in numbers? Black women have a 5x higher mortality rate and other factors that lower fertility.

So WHY are they targeting police officers, firefighters and medics for those few bad apples?

There are 3 million first responders in the US. 

So first, let’s say that each of these 3 million had 2 interactions each shift.

So 2 intereactions, and they worked 300 days in a year.

(these are obviously low numbers but work with me here)

So 600 interactions with the public in a year.

Times that by 3 million and we have ONE BILLION EIGHT HUNDRED MILLION interactions with First Responders Every year.

That should lead to… a hundred million first responder responsible deaths and complaints?

At least a million dead right civilians right?

According to the Washington Post- 991 people were fatally shot in 2017 by police officers. And the majority of them were white. Not black.

Now, that number is high and we can talk about that- life is precious after all.

When we compare the real number of 991 dead vs what the public thinks is happening (see above for over 1 million dead by a first responders hand which is just not true) and we see that this issue has been blown way out of hand!

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Fire in Building Saskatchewan

Are all of these people racist? (and notice that I’m not defending those that are- because there ARE racists in our thin line family.)

That means that a % of first responders are innocent and being blamed for the actions of a few (and there’s always going to be bad apples. You would have been bad in any career) 

I won’t pick a specific number, because it would be impossible to say that this arrest or this death was racist versus the ones that aren’t. But AT WORST, let’s say 49% of first responders are racist and just haven’t killed anybody- only treated them poorly. Are we to punish the 51% that bust their ass to save those strangers they’ve never met? Are we to completely defund an organization that is meant to save people and needs LEO backup for those dangerous calls (like meth labs, abused children, car accident safety)

Even worse, we have black/brown firefighters (especially the women) that are already underrepresented, being alienated by their community.

They are trying to make change. They are trying to help and be a part of the solution by joining forces and supporting people that want to save lives.

Instead now they are being asked to choose between paying their bills and supporting the ‘right’ way. 

Let me ask you this

Finally,  the people that are decrying the police and first responders, have obviously never been in a situation where they needed help. 

They have obviously never lost a child, a senior citizen, or had a cat up the tree. 

They have never been in a car accident where police were needed to redirect traffic so that medics can assist. 

They have never had an arson in their town, where police worked to catch a culprit and firefighters protected life and property. 

They have never needed firefighters to rescue stranded boaters, put out woodland fires, and contain gas leaks and do CPR. 

And they have obviously NEVER heard of domestic terrorists with bombs, weapons, bank robbers, and those with suicidial ideations. 

First responders work in a beautiful tandem- they sacrifice their sleep, their mental wellness, their family time and money to protect people that literally hate them. 

This in NO way demeans the BLM peaceful protests. I hate that I even have to include this disclaimer as my actions to include those with darker skin tones is evident in my speech, use of diverse pictures, and personal life. Black lifes absolutely matter- but the political organization is stealing money and spreading hate with no solutions. This is not how we help our brothers and sisters in their time of need.

You won’t find me virtue signaling on social media or email. Go on FireHouse.com (or hell, in many departments across the world) and you’ll see the stigma that many firefighters face.

How does defunding the police defund fire?

Because Police are called to assist with many Fire cases (like actual car fires, suicides, missing people, combative medical calls, car accidents, large street fires) there would be a loss of time and security for Firefighters to manage civilian (because the police wouldn’t be there or would be late).

Fire is also already underfunded, straining from the weight of doing 100 tasks and responsibilities.

Hell, 70% of our Firefighters are VOLUNTEERS. You gonna just defund an organization that doesn’t take any money in the first place?!

So now we have cities defunding police, do you think they’ll keep fire the same pay? Or cut them too?

We all know the answer. If police are disposable, so are Firefighters, Medics and other first responders.

We can lovingly share facts with people.

We can openly defend our good firefighters who, quite literally, keep the world from burning. We can be proud to support the thin red line, the thin blue line and our first responder comrades. 

I encourage you to be a light in these dark times. I’’m here for you, I’m here for the thin red line (no matter what color you are, and especially those women of color who will feel the worst of this) and We WILL get through this. 

If police are disposable, so are Firefighters, Medics and other first responders.

It’s already started. Here we have news articles from September 2020 talking about defunding fire departments.

Dallas Texas moves to defund police and fire departments

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Sacramento California Votes to Defund Fire and Police Departments

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So what’s the solution?

I do not (nor will not) claim to have the solution for racisim.

What I will claim is this- defunding the police isn’t the answer- mental wellness would be a step in the right direction.

Remember the Dallas Cop that shot a man, who she thought was in her apartment, but she was actually in his?

Do you wonder why she was up all night drinking? And then overreacted to an intruder?

From an outside perspective, it looks like PTSD and mental health issues. I won’t speculate, but I will say, that it has been PROVEN that first responders are not getting the help they need and the support they need for PTSD and other job related issues.

The stats for PTSD are shocking- First Responders are committing suicide at alarming rates.

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Women especially are at very high risks of PTSD and the subsequent fall out from work-related trauma.

Mental Wellness is the big picture- and this would require MORE funding, not less.

Basically, I’m asking you this

Please consider what you say when you say ‘defund the police’. Please consider what you say when you ‘ Defund the Fire Department ‘

Please consider how many firefighters are volunteers, how many buy their own gear, how many sacrifice and shield you from the horrors of the job- all in an effort to keep you safe.

Please consider your words and use them wisely.

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2 thoughts on “What ‘defund the police’ means for Firefighters”

  1. When people say “de-fund the police”. I think its a poor way of saying get rid of the guys with guns and replace them with specialists. Taking your example they dont need to send a cop with a gun to help with a fire. We need traffic control, grief counselors, investigators. People with authority not guns.

    • These are the kinds of conversations we need to have Collin. There are those (especially behind their keyboards on the internet) that literally want the police to disappear. Those that know that changes need to be made with responses and body cams and mental wellness campaigns, and those that will defend first responders till their dying breath.

      In some ways, I think that we’ve put first responders on a pedestal, and when they make a mistake, they are vilified. Both by the public and by their own brain. I know plenty of people that ‘wish they would have done more’ and beat themselves up because they lost someone- but those same people could be victims of a cruel and judgemental internet culture that is looking for it’s next victim.

      I hope we can come together to discuss these things while keeping the safety of our communities a priority- I worry that there is so much emotion that changes will be made in haste (one way or the other) that ultimately won’t benefit anyone.

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