Friday, October 16, 2009
Perhaps there is more to this story than meets the eye, but the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that a Chester City firefighter was suspended for not removing a sticker of an American flag from his locker, in violation of a new rule prohibiting decorations from appearing on the outside of any lockers. The rule was established when an offensive cartoon was placed on a locker door and there was a complaint about it.
Fire Commissioner James Johnson is clearly angling for the Nobel Prize in Civil Service Management:
Banning all materials from locker doors was the simplest way to avoid bickering among the staff, Johnson said.(Emphasis added)
"How do we know what offends who?" he said. "I have to play Solomon here."
Yes, Commissioner Johnson, you actually have to exercise considered judgment from time to time. How could firefighters in Chester (or anywhere in the U.S.) possibly find an American flag offensive, especially since it is "stitched on their uniforms, hangs on their trucks, and flies on a pole out front?"
There is a minor racial aspect to this story, as well as the obvious patriotic component, either of which might inflame passions and give this story legs beyond the local section of the paper. What struck me as the most important part of this news item is the apparent lack of management ability or serious judgment on the part of Commissioner Johnson. A fire department would be the one area of civil service that I would expect to see common sense leadership. Because there is a slight chance of the perception of inequitable treatment, managers (and not just in civil service) must resort to the Kindergarten teacher philosophy of fairness -- you've ruined it for the rest of the class, and now everyone else must suffer the consequences.
Such is the same with "No Tolerance" policies in educational institutions and businesses all over the US.
It would appear that American administrators are being rendered incapable of making administrative decisions by either fear, incompetence...or a mixture of both.
Political Correctness...the gift that keeps on giving!