A quote frequently heard from Police and Fire folks: “We put our life on the line every day for you”. Is this really true?
Posted Under: Fire Department Issues,Important Issues for Fort Lauderdale,Police Department Issues
One of the quotes heard frequently when City Budgets or Pensions are up for discussion is this: It comes from Police and Fire professionals and sounds something like: “I deserve that (Raise/salary/pension/ etc.)…”I put my life on the line every day for you”…
Now true, Police and Fire professionals obviously play a critical role in any City or County Government. And we the taxpayer should (and are expected to) pay for their services. But when the economy is as bad as it is now, and when belt tightening must occur everywhere within municipal payrolls, should Police and Fire be exempt from that belt tightening? In my opinion, no.
Unions for Police and Fire have done an admirable job in protecting and increasing the salaries and compensation benefits for their members here over the years. Many Police and Fire members have been able to retire in their 40’s, draw a pension that comes close to their original salary, then go to work for another City, drawing yet another pension. If they defer their pension until later (under the DROP Program), they can receive lump sums of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many Police and Fire folks here in the City today receive total compensation packages that are in excess of $100K per year. To say they are well paid may be considered a bit of an understatement.
But at the first hint that someone on the Commission wants to lower their benefits or trim their salaries in a future contract, they will pack the Commission Chambers and begin that refrain that makes it difficult for anyone to say “No” to them: “I put my life on the line every day for you…” Is that a true statement?
In my opinion, ALL OF US put our lives on the line every day. Just look at driving in Broward County. On average, there is at least one injury or fatality everyday here in Broward County due to a traffic mishap. So we all put our lives on the line every day, simply by getting behind the wheel.
But are Police and Fire professionals in a dangerous profession? Of course, but there are more dangerous professions than being a Police or Fire professional, (based on deaths per 100,000 employees). Look at these statistics from a recent (2010) Forbes article:
Job Type Deaths per 100,000 employees
- Police and Fire: 18
- Machinists: 20
- Truckers 22
- Garbage Collectors 30
- Roofers 32
- Mine machine operators 39
- Farmers 41
- Pilots 71
- Loggers 92
- Commercial Fishermen 116
So Police and Fire professionals do not see as many deaths as other jobs seem to have. In fact, another article I dug up a couple of years ago indicated that more deaths and injuries occurred to Police and Fire professionals when they were OFF DUTY (ie: skiing, team sports, drag racing, hiking, or other active or risky behavior) than occurred when they were on the job!
So my suggestion to our Police and Fire Professionals: Stop using that line. It has gotten a bit worn from overuse. And if you REALLY want to put your life on the line, sign up in the military and go to the Middle East. Our troops there know what “putting their life on the line” means every day. They don’t know if today is the day they will be killed by a sniper, or have their arms or legs blown off by an IED (“improvised explosive device”).
And they are earning only a FRACTION of the salary that our Police and Fire folks here in Fort Lauderdale receive.
So in this era of budget cutbacks, it is my hope that our Police and Fire professionals take on their fair share of the burden and make a sacrifice when the next set of contract negotiations start. Look for ways to reduce the burden to the Fort Lauderdale tax payer.