My Department has just recently come out of the dark ages and decided that the practice of the membership electing its officers is not such a good thing. I've been tasked by Chief to formulate an SOP on the appointment/selection of our officers. I use the slash because Chief doesn't want to do straight out appointments. He wants it to be a selection process.
Ideas I've kicked around include testing, certification numbers, an interview process with both the Chief, and a neighboring Chief (unbiased?). With some type of a weight system combining those factors; Ie. Interview is worth 25% of your tally, certs are worth 25%, etc..
It boils down to my Chief not wanting to appoint. He wants a process that will eliminate the good ol boy network. Anyone have something along these lines they'd like to share?
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Lt. Paul Harris
Thanks for the reply Andrew.
I forgot to mention that we too have minumum qualifications for each officer spot. They are a little different from what you listed but something along the same line. My question is, and perhaps I didn't phrase it properly is- Can anyone offer help in a SOP for who gets the job when two or more candidates meet the minimum qualifications, that is not a popular vote?
I'm running into a hard time finding anything out there. I plan on cobbling something together from various other methods.
"two or more candidates meet the minimum qualifications"
As bad as I despise the word, you will probably have to have some sort of "written test", along with an oral interview. I would guess that "time in grade" (years of service) should be considered, as well as any additional training above the "minimum" qualifications.
It has been my experience you will not be able to completely stop the popular vote or (the perception of one), but I think your department is trying to be proactive in taking this step.
Although some don't like the word 'test', there is probabaly no better way to quantify one's knowledge. But it's the content of the test that matters. If you already have some minimum standards that are required as for certain certification levels, the next best thing you can do is to break it down to three critical areas: Leadership potential and ability, fireground skills and effective decisssion maing, and knowledge of your community.
An Officer has to be able to communicate, and most importantly, lead. Interpersonal skills are very important.
Perhpas some form of an assesment type test would be a benifit. Possibly you can form a panal, or a board with two of your officers, and perhaps officers from your surrounding area - providing they have the same level and standards of professionalism. Develop a score criteria that awards points for specific key parts identified in each scenario.
Develop a certain leadership-related problem a few paragraphs long that can measure the candidates ability to solve the problem in a fair but effective way. The problem would submitted in writing to the candidate, give him/her 15 minutes to comprise an answer, and then present that answer to the board orally, with a 10 minute time limit.
Do the same for a ficticious fire or other emergecny, as an extrication or haz mat, but cut the prep and answer time down to reflect the little time we actually have for forming an emergency strategy. Ensure ICS and safety are the main goals.
Next, you should use the third part as some form of community awareness, which can be a written aspect of a test, or orally. But it should measure the candidates knowledge of the community, target hazards, department pre-plans, equipment inventory, and mutual-aid avialability.
Some of this is comparable to what NJ uses for promotional assesment testing. There is no reason it can't be used for volunteer companies either. You just need a non-bias board of subject matter experts to conduct the test.
Paulie, Establishing standards for specific offices is great. This is my take based on my first 48 years of by-laws committees. If the members are deprived of thier vote, the new system will eventually be percieved as the new "Good-ole-boy" system. Maintain the established requisites for offices then have a 'Nominating committee" present a list of those eligible for each office then have the membership choose from that list of those qualified. Members need to be empowered within the system. They need to feel involved and part of what you do and who you are. The Chief also gets his wish of not having to choose. Works for us.
Very rarely would you come up with 2 people who end up with the exact same score after a written/oral interview. Points are usually awarded for classes and TOS. But if at the end of all that, 2 people have a score of 83.345, then the chief is going to have to choose between the 2.
We have officer qualification standards to be eligible for nomination to an officer's position. Then the membership elects from eligible candidates.
While I wholeheartedly endorse the concept, the challenge of conducting promotional interviews is finding an impartial "jury" in the firehouse. Are the members focused on what they perceive to be right for them, or what's right for the department - and most importantly - for the community? That perspective is sometimes tough to find.Unfortunately, popularity contests are still prevalent in the fire service - for all the wrong reasons.
A sample officer qualifications matrix is attached.
First of all, if you are a volunteer fire department, I would have to ask where your board of trustees are on this matter.
The chief has a clear responsibility to run the day to day operations.
Administration should fall to the board of trustees. I would think that they would be very interested in any process for promotion.
If you don't include them in some way, you may put a lot of work into it only to have them say, "no; that's not the way we want it done".
Or they might say that the department has over stepped its bounds.
If you have been reading the news, you will see the liability of not having "qualified" officers. We currently have a firefighter suing everyone but God in St. Louis County, Missouri because she claims that she was injured by people who weren't "qualified".
Something to think about and remember; shift as much liability to the BOT. THEY are the ones with Tort immunity.
Thank you for the input, and for the attached qualification matrix. I lkie that Idea! I'm a little confused about your statement however. When mentioning promotional interviews you say finding an impartial jury is a challange, because they may not be imparital and focused on whats right for the department/community?
But in your 1st paragraph your members elect eligible candidates. Do your members, when casting that vote, have whats best for the department/community in mind? Or is it a popularity contest? Most guys probably do, but we all know in a majority wins election, it only takes 1 or 2 votes to put the wrong guy in.
This dilema is exactly what Im looking to find a SOP to address. Some way to take voting out of the process. Someone somewhere does have to make a decision. There has to be a way to come up with this decision that takes out anychance someone does not have the best intrest of his dept. when making it.
Completely ridding yourself of the good ol' boys system may not be as good as it sounds. Bear with me a minute. We do an outside testing agency which is worth a certain percentage and then an interview/scenario based testing over SOP's with the officers which carries a certain percentage. Which is a fair assessment. As my department is a township one, the Trustees then have an interview which carries a percentage. The only problem with this is that the Trustees portion is a rather large percentage which can sway the process, and thus somewhat continue the good ol' boys system. We also give points on the test for longevity at the department. When all this is sorted out a list is generated from first to last. Here is where we maintain some of the merits of the good ol' boys. Our next officer can be made from any one of the top three candidates and is recommended by the Chief with a lot of input from the on duty officers. Because of this someone who is simply a good test taker and in the good graces of the Trustees isn't necessarily a shoe in over someone who everyone else on the department knows would be better at the job.
I strongly urgue you to be careful with this process. I would put a number of years of service and requirements such as firefighter1 for my line officiers to complement an interview with questions on how to command operations and people. We had this proccess and are getting away from it! Also you need an impeachment process.It needs to be looked at Number of calls attended. Another solution is to elect an assistant chief and the Chief and Assistant appiont line officiers from there. The reason I urge caution is because you may have a popularity election and have people in postions that haven't had the expirence or leadership skills yet to command the troops safetly and efficently. we are looking at going to an appionted chief by the board and elected assistant chief by the members and appiont from there the line officiers and deputy chief. I hope this is helpful for you and would like to know how this all works out for you. Thanks Chief Reynolds