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The anti-FEMS/pro-DCFD movement gets an ally and a bill. But look at what the cops got.

Previous coverage of this issue

Read more from Mike Ward at Firegeezer

Columnist Harry Jaffe on FEMS for the Washington Examiner

A press release yesterday (see below) from Jack Evans, a long-time member of the City Council of the District of Columbia, has a lot of DC firefighters excited that there is an important ally in their battle to keep the DCFD logo, instead of wearing t-shirts that say FEMS. Evans has introduced a council bill that would allow firefighters to keep their DCFD shirts. In the release, Evans makes many of the same arguments firefighters have. He talks about tradition and the morale issue of forcing firefighters who haven't had a raise in years to fork over their own money to be in compliance. (The release also refers to "New York City’s iconic 'NYFD' logo" which makes you think maybe it's not as iconic as we believe.)

While my original article on this focused on the potential marketing pitfalls of using the DC government shorthand of FEMS, I understand the emotional aspects of such a move and the tradition involved. I also understand pretty clearly the image problem that EMS has faced in the Nation's Capital.

But here is something else I understand that no one seems to be talking about. Something that is written rather clearly in the press release by Evans' staff. While there is a lot of political capital being spent on both sides of the logos and t-shirts issue, the cops now have legislation pending to provide a minimum level of staffing for the department.

In the very same press release outlining the FEMS battle, Evans reports on the introduction of his bill titled “MPD Minimum Staffing Act of 2011”. It is co-sponsored by four of his colleagues. Interestingly Evans does not mention any co-sponsors on the “Fire and Emergency Medical Services Logo Clarification Act of 2011”. Tom Howell Jr. at The Washington Times tells us "Initially, the legislation was cosponsored by Council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat. However, Mr. Barry after the introduction withdrew his support." 

So, at a time when unions across the country are fighting for their existence and losing gains they made in safe staffing levels, the DC police department is bucking the trend and somehow has a bill on the table that would keep a minimum of 4,000 cops on the force.

At the same time, the District of Columbia Fire  EMS Department/DCFD/DC Fire/FEMS somehow got itself into a domestic squabble over t-shirts and logos. How unfortunate.

Evans Introduces Police & Fire Legislation
Bills Aimed at Public Safety & Employee Morale

Washington, DC – Councilmember Jack Evans today introduced the “MPD Minimum Staffing Act of 2011” and the “Fire and Emergency Medical Services Logo Clarification Act of 2011.”

The “MPD Minimum Staffing Act of 2011” was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Graham, Bowser, Brown, and Biddle and would require the District of Columbia to retain a minimum staffing level of 4,000 sworn members of the Metropolitan Police Department.

“Chief Lanier recently testified that fewer than 3,800 sworn officers will present significant challenges for our public safety efforts,” said Evans. “This Bill will help to ensure that we never reach a point where our rank and file membership falls below 4,000.”

The “Fire and Emergency Services Logo Clarification Act of 2011” would provide that District firefighters may continue to wear the DCFD logo on their uniforms despite a controversial order from Chief Kenneth Ellerbe requiring all personnel to wear “FEMS,” as well as to pay for certain changes to their uniforms.

“No one is arguing against the policy justifications for elevating the stature of the emergency medical services portion of the department,” Evans said. “However, just look at New York City’s iconic “NYFD” logo, used for a department that serves a number of functions, none of which are suffering because they are not all included in the department’s logo. Around the country, a logo consisting of a city’s initials in front of “FD” is universally recognized and inspires confidence and cooperation from residents.”

“Further, a workforce that hasn’t received a pay increase in five years should not be asked to incur additional out of pocket expenses to purchase re-designed uniforms without any consultation whatsoever.”


Comments - Add Yours

  • Chief72

    what is wrong with "D.C. Fire &  Rescue."  or DCFD & EMS.   FEMS doesn't get it.   DCFD has a national following, just like NYFD!   The city is falling a part and the counsel is worried about logo's.   Police & Fire lose manpower, expected to do more with less!
    The member who introduced this must be from Dupont Circle area.

  • Anoym.

    Jack is awesome. This is a great example of why when you take the time to send e-mails to the councilmemebers about your concerns, they actually listen (especially when you send it to all of them).  I commented on your original post suggesting this, and took the advice –  I actually got a response back from 3 councilmembers on this issue, including Jack.  Many of the information provided above was added into the e-mail.
    If you don't like the way something is going in the city, send a group e-mail to them. 
    It goes to their blackberrys and they do listen.

  • retired firefighter

    Well, changing an organization's long-standing name that reflects their primary function to the community can cause confusion.  To me, FEMS sounds like the name of a feminine hygiene product!  I've never heard any one holler, "Quick, call the FEMS" when their house is on fire!

  • Rich

    So…is Ellerbe a babbling idiot who actually thought that the "FEMS" idea would fly? Or is Ellerbe a mad genius who concocted the idea as a red herring, knowing it would get a strong negative reaction, in order to distract the firefighters and the union from pursuing more substantive gains like the cops got? Things that make you go hmm… 

  • Dcfireman

    I applaud my brothers in blue for getting the staffing bill on the the table. We stand united with them on many fronts, including Mr. Catania’s pension bill. Local 36 already has a
    minimum staffing agreement in place. It calls
    for 4 man engines, and 5 man trucks and squads etc. I get the feeling you think our
    fight against fems is trivial and we should be
    working on getting other things. Local 36 has fought for many years for workers safety/ rights. Rest assured we are under attack on many fronts and will fight and never compromise on safety. A major problem with ellerbe’s changes is forcing us to wear polyester shirts so we look ” professional” as anyone who has had to gonto the burn unit knows this is unacceptable. I don’t expect a retired reporter to sympathize wiu what DCFD means to us but I’m sure you can see it doesn’t make sense. I can’t thank Mr. Evans enough for both bills.

    P.S. In the interest of fair reporting if you watch the hearing Mr. Evans said nyfd and then immediately corrected himself and said Fdny and
    nypd for the remainder of his speech, he knew what he was talking about.

    • dave statter


      Oh I understand the issue of DCFD and am not un-sympathetic to that issue at all. I am aware of the minimum staffing in your CBA. A lot of locals around the country have minimum staffing in place and are losing it.

      If you read what I wrote I am not pointing fingers. I will let others do that and answer why it has gotten to this point. The press release brought home to me a dissapointment that all this political capital has to be wasted, for whatever reason, on a logo. That is something emotional. Those issues often end up diverting the resources away from things that don’t stir our passions but may be more important. Uniforms that meet safety standards are one of them. I noticed when Ed Smith was questioned about the logo he focused on safety and pay raises.

      As for Jack’s NYFD reference, I am only referring to what I saw in the press release. I figured I’d mention it in my usual sarcastic, reporter manner before someone else did.

      Thanks for writing.


  • Anonymous

    The FEMS logo is something that Mendolson uses within his office referencing DC Fireand and EMS. Ellerbee took it impress Mendolson. Ellerbee knows very well he's angry at Rubin because of the issue of staying on DC Fire and EMS rolls so he can collect $600,000.00 Retirement. He was at that time Chief at Sarasota, Florida. That's all this issue stems from.One can only wonder why Mendolson, The City Council, Mayor put their foot down and advise Ellerbee FEMS is not a Truthful and Honest reflection of What, who, why, whynot, when DC Fire and EMS is supposed to be identified. Come on District of Columbia Political Authorities get it together now.
    Thank You

  • Anonymous

    "But here is something else I understand that no one seems to be talking about. Something that is written rather clearly in the press release by Evans' staff. While there is a lot of political capital being spent on both sides of the logos and t-shirts issue, the cops now have legislation pending to provide a minimum level of staffing for the department. "
    That's because the cops see the BIG picture.

  • Anonymous

    The cops see the big picture AND they don't have an idiot for a Chief. 

  • informed

    One of you (dcfireman) pointed out Local36 already has minimum staffing requirements. Why do others keep saying we're missing something here? We got the big picture years ago when we put it into our contract. Why not harp on MPD for waiting until 2011 to bring the subject up?