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The city Personnel Department’s report on whether the creation of a new firefighting rank is justified and necessary consists of two pages of vague job description and contains little analysis or evidence as to why the department actually needs the new rank.

The city’s personnel director, Hadi Deghani, told me a couple of days ago while I was researching this story that his department conducts a robust analysis of whether the position is warranted. Deghani said his analysts take a long, hard look at whether the city should create the new position, which comes with a pay raise of up to 5 percent and could cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

The key thing the Personnel Department is trying to ascertain in that analysis, Deghani told me, is whether the city needs a new classification that will define a series of duties which aren’t already the responsibility of another rank in the department.

“The creation of [the new position] is based on the need to have a classification perform duties that are not encompassed in the duties of any other classification,” Deghani told me on Monday.

The department’s report, which accompanied a staff recommendation that the rank be created, details a number of roles that the new Firefighter IIIs will perform. But many of those roles are already performed by other ranks in the Fire Department.

Here’s an example:

The proposed classification will serve in a lead role by providing technical instruction and daily training to subordinate Fire Fighters. The proposed new classification will also operate several types of emergency support vehicles.

More than half of the city’s firefighters hold a higher rank than the Firefighter II position, from which the promotions would be drawn. There are also already hundreds of firefighters in the department who operate emergency support vehicles. There’s no explanation or analysis in the report as to why the city needs the new rank of firefighters to perform those tasks.

I asked Deghani if there’s anything the new rank of firefighters will be asked to do that no one else in the department is already doing.

He pointed to a sentence of the two-page report that states, “The proposed new classification of Fire Fighter III will assist the Fire Captain by serving in a lead role in the Fire Company Inspection Program.”

Frank DeClercq, director of the local firefighters’ union, said the department is so swamped with doing fire inspections around the city that a new breed of supervisors is needed at the department. With the new rank in place, four-man fire crews will be able to split into two teams, with the fire captain leading one team and the Firefighter III leading the other, the report states.

But there’s no evidence or analysis in the report showing that the inspections are a drain on firefighters’ time and no analysis of whether splitting four-person crews into two is a good idea.

“We didn’t have to go into 20 pages or so to make a point. Just because the report is short, doesn’t mean it’s not comprehensive,” Deghani said.

The new position, which hasn’t yet been approved by City Council, would cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Take a look and see if you think the report is comprehensive. I’d love to hear your comments.

WILL CARLESS

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