By now, most everyone has heard of the Chula Vista, California firefighter handcuffed and detained by a California Highway Patrol officer while working at a freeway vehicle collision. Unfortunately for the officer, a news camera crew filmed the arrest, resulting in a national news story and debate between firefighters and police officers about scene management and safety. Fortunately, in this case cooler heads prevailed; likely after fire and CHP chief officers were called at home in the middle of the night.
Unfortunately, everyone ends up with egg on their faces. Kudos to the CHP and FD for quickly burying the hatchet and pledging to move forward in better managing freeway incidents. Obviously, they wanted to repair their working relationship and reputation.
This is not the first time something like this has happened and ended up in the national news. Here’s a clip from 2003 of the same issue in another part of the country.
Make no mistake; there has always been an underlying tension – and competition – between law enforcement officers and firefighters. It’s the nature of the beast. The culture, mission, priorities and public perception of the jobs are different. But the overarching goal is the same; protect the citizens. This tension can boil over during freeway accidents, where the need to protect the scene, while trying to keep traffic flowing collide (pardon the pun).
During my career, I occasionally had conflicts with my law enforcement partners. It’s the nature of the beast. We do different things. Without exception, we exercised restraint, working out our differences on the scene, or shortly thereafter. We respected each other’s jobs EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Obviously, this didn’t happen in Chula Vista.
I’ve always had the deepest respect for my law enforcement partners. They run into gunfire without hesitation. They get spit on and don’t spit back. They see the worst of humanity, yet see the goodness in everyone. They have our backs.
Firefighters do the same thing, but in a different way. They run into burning buildings without hesitation, searching for people that may or may not be there, and take an ass kicking in trying to save someone’s property. They have our backs.
On the lighter side, firefighters have a wicked sense of humor, using their ample down time to bust the chops of their gun toting brothers and sisters. Here’s an example (and another one here) of the type of ribbing that goes on (Don’t watch if you are easily offended). It always comes down to eating donuts and playing cards.