The following was excerpted verbatim from the job description for a law enforcement officer in a community in Volusia County:
“While performing the duties of this job, the employee frequently works outside in inclement and/or rapidly changing weather conditions, including extreme heat, extreme cold, direct sunlight, high humidity, heavy rain and strong winds. The employee occasionally works near moving mechanical parts; in high, precarious places; and with explosives, and is occasionally exposed to fumes, foul odors or airborne particles; toxic or caustic chemicals; vibration; in dark and confined spaces; and in the presence of wild and/or dangerous animals. The employee will occasionally be exposed to the presence of blood-borne pathogens, bodily fluids, and work in close physical proximity to sick, injured, and deceased persons. The noise level in the work environment is usually moderate; however, depending upon conditions, the employee may be subjected to loud, sustained or modulating noise levels, including but not limited to emergency vehicle sirens, gunfire, shouting, alarms and environmental sounds.”
Add to that the fact “the employee” will be required to work all hours of the day and night – on weekends and holidays – during their children’s birthday parties and piano recitals, on Christmas morning, New Year’s eve, wedding anniversaries, family outings and special dinners.
The conditions of their employment demand that “the employee” respond on a moment’s notice from a family campout, Cub Scout meeting, movie theater or restaurant – leaving their children and significant other behind – to investigate a grisly homicide scene, manage a traffic fatality, negotiate with a mad man, make dynamic entry into a building containing an armed and barricaded suspect, interview a battered child, comfort a rape victim, notify a family that their loved one has died, locate an Alzheimer’s victim or work “mandatory” overtime.
“The employee” will be required to operate sophisticated equipment and write detailed technical reports from memory – complete extensive forms, checklists, affidavits, citations and documentary narratives – account for property and items of physical evidence, search dangerous prisoners amid the ever-present threat of hypodermic needles, razor blades, knives, firearms and improvised weapons.
Make a mistake or overlook something and “the employee” and others will die.
Every move “the employee” makes – each verbal or bodily sound he or she utters – will be digitally recorded and stored for later in-depth analysis and withering criticism by the media, internal affairs investigators, attorneys, judges, juries and the public.
In some cases, the gruesome details of “the employee’s” untimely death or murder – their last pitiful cries for help or horrified spontaneous utterances – will be recorded in high definition and displayed on the internet for general entertainment – or the tense and desperate nanoseconds of decision-making leading to their use of deadly force will be captured, assessed frame-by-agonizing-frame, and widely critiqued by “experts” and others who were comfortably asleep in their warm beds when the dangerous armed encounter occurred.
“The employee” will regularly grapple and fight with intoxicated, drugged, physically powerful or mentally deranged criminal suspects – being punched, kicked, bitten, choked, pummeled, spit upon and have their genitals crushed and eyes gouged – all while desperately struggling to protect a powerful firearm, electronic control device, collapsible baton, folding knife and pepper spray canister from being ripped from their belt and used against themselves or innocent bystanders.
You know, the “innocent bystanders” who quickly devolve into a group of hostile agitators shouting slurs and incendiary taunts while live-streaming every moment of the frantic struggle with a cellular phone and refusing to assist?
“The employee” will be required to spend 12 to 14 hours at a time in the confines of a patrol vehicle that stinks of feces, urine, coagulated blood and vomit that he or she hasn’t had time to personally clean out from the last prisoner they transported – you know, the guy who spent the entire ride spitting flem and snot through the partition while describing all the things he will do to “the employee” when the handcuffs come off.
Cuts, scrapes, bruises, broken fingers, chipped teeth, bad knees and recurring mental pictures of traumatic events are things “the employee” will be expected to accept and “deal with” – least they be mocked and ridiculed for a lack of physical or mental toughness.
“The employee” will be routinely required to absorb personal, racial and sexual slurs, epithets, physical threats and gross verbal denigration by criminals, “social activists,” unruly mobs, and members of the public – intense provocations that would see “the employee” terminated, demonized and prosecuted if he or she should psychologically break and respond in kind.
During times of extreme weather emergencies, “the employee” will kiss their family goodbye and wish their neighbors well as they evacuate to safety – knowing well that they will work in soaking rains, flooded roads and deadly winds with little food or rest in soggy boots – then, in the aftermath, they will perform technical rescues, assess and mitigate damage, and secure other people’s homes and property while ignoring their own.
For their willingness to serve – every time “the employee” puts on the uniform bearing the name of the political jurisdiction they protect – there is an elevated chance they will be required to trade their life for the safety and security of those they are sworn to serve.
I’ve written on this important subject before.
I lived it for over three-decades.
On Thursday, the Volusia Deputies Association will sit down at the bargaining table with officials from County Manager Jim Dinneen’s administration to negotiate a regionally competitive pay and benefits package for those brave men and women who put their very lives on the line to protect and serve all of us.
Given the near-constant waste, money shuffles and utter mismanagement that has been the hallmark of Mr. Dinneen’s tenure – the lies, dodges and blunders that are routinely accepted or ignored by our elected officials – perhaps it’s time for those of us who sleep comfortably under the blanket of protection provided by law enforcement to stand in defense and support of the VCDA’s noble efforts to obtain a wage equivalent to that of their brothers and sisters in other area agencies?
In my experience, it is not surprising that Mr. Dinneen is preparing to sink every taxpaying citizen of Volusia County into massive debt – an estimated $260-million+ over 30-years – to build the brick-and-mortar physical plant for a sprawling courthouse and county office complex in Daytona Beach – all while fighting a competitive compensation package for those brave souls who will actually put themselves in harm’s way to provide the complex physical security and logistics for these important public facilities.
Last week, an esteemed group of judges, politicians and government officials met with the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s editorial board to explain the need for a new criminal justice facility to replace the aging courthouse annex.
They spoke passionately about the ever-present dangers and security concerns.
In response, everyone who is anyone in Volusia County almost immediately agreed that we need to accept Mr. Dinneen’s seemingly over-the-top request – without question or concern – and quietly acquiesce to the most expensive project ever undertaken in our county’s history.
Now, will those same respected judges and revered public officials support the efforts of the Volusia Deputies Association and demonstrate the personal and professional courage to back the men and women who stand the line in their courtrooms and secure the thresholds of their offices by demanding that Mr. Dinneen provide our deputies fair and equitable compensation?
Time will tell.
I, for one, will remember who stood in support of these brave men and women – and who did not – during my next trip to the ballot box.
I hope you will too.
Contract negotiations will be held on Thursday, August 3, 2017, at Volusia County Agriculture, 3100 East New York Avenue, DeLand, Florida. The public is encouraged to attend.