Chief's Policy Brings 2 More Suspensions (The Washington Post) 04/04/01
ACLU, Union Vow to Fight Fire Chief's Decision (The Washington Post) 04/04/01
GLAA responds to Fire Chief's resignationMay 31, 2002
Honorable Kathy Patterson
1350 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Councilmember Patterson:
Chief Few's resignation is welcome news to GLAA. We testified at his confirmation hearing that we had serious concerns about being able to run a diverse department in a diverse city. Unfortunately, he proved us right. His replacement will need to correct many of the problems that Few created.
As you consider confirming a replacement fire chief, please consider the following. Chief Few eliminated the sensitivity training that his predecessor had implemented. While the previous training was limited and needed expansion, elimination of that training will only lead to more problems like the first responders caused in the Tyra Hunter incident. That unfortunate series of events cost DC $1.75 million dollars, six years of litigation, and the life of a citizen. The training that Few eliminated was even named for Tyra Hunter.
Chief Few also implemented a grooming policy that is both unconstitutional and illegal. This has resulted in an ongoing legal battle that DC cannot win. Few's claim that the policy exists for safety reasons is undermined by his refusal to implement the self-contained breathing apparatus fit test as recommended by the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration. The ACLU agrees that the use of this objective safety test eliminates First Amendment and DC Human Rights Act concerns. Appearance of safety, as promoted by Few, is not safety.
GLAA has provided the Council and the Administration with proposed language that would bring the grooming standards into compliance with our laws. A copy of the June 6, 2001 letter we sent to Mayor Williams is attached. If the next Fire Chief will not end the enforcement of the policy, then the Council should write new regulations for the Fire/EMS Department to follow.
We also hope that you will not repeat the mistakes of former Judiciary Committee Chair Harold Brazil who coordinated the confirmation hearing and served on the selection committee. This is a violation of separation of powers that clearly had an adverse affect on the selection process. Mr. Brazil held GLAA and other public witnesses for over eight hours before we were able to testify. By then the cameras were off, the reporters had left, the other members of the committee had gone but then we learned from Dorothy Brizill that Chief Few lacked a college degree and did not receive the Fire Chief of the Year Award. Chief Few did not address these serious issues as he had already spoken and Mr. Brazil asked no follow-up questions. While it has taken 2 years for this public scandal to erupt, the Council was on notice from the beginning.
We trust that you will exercise your usual level of diligence at the confirmation hearing of the next nominated fire chief. Specifically you should instruct future Chiefs that training of Fire/EMS employees on professional behavior when dealing with the public is critical to their jobs and the public's perception of the department; and the unconstitutional and illegal grooming policy must be rescinded.
cc: DC Councilmembers