When the Utica Fire Department's current Book of Rules was published, John McKennan was mayor. The document addresses telegraph operation, trouser style and the consumption of 'spirituous malts.' It does not, however, address social media, internet use or sexual harassment.
The reason? It was published in 1959; 24 years before the female firefighters, 18 years before computers hit homes and 38 years before social media.
"This had been placed on the back burner. And this administration is going to move forward," said Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri. Though recent events might seem to indicate otherwise, Palmieri says he, fire administration and corporation counsel have been working on UFD's new code of conduct for some time. "We've been working on this for roughly two and a half years, and there is a cost factor in this."
The city is currently meeting with outside vendors to craft a new document-which they expect will be much longer than the current one.
"We could end up with up to a 900 page policy manual that deals with everything from personal conduct to how the uniforms are worn to use of internet and driving skills," said Deputy Chief, Scott Ingersoll, who agrees that an outside vendor is the way to go. "So we can develop policies and procedures that are already vetted in New York State and federally, so we don't violate anybody's federal or civil rights."
The Book of Rules isn't the only document that dictates firehouse behavior. There is UFD's collective bargaining agreement with the city, which expired in March and is currently being renegotitated, and the city-wide employee handbook. The city, fire administration and corporation counsel are in agreement-the Book of Rules redo is long overdue.
"it's pretty critical as far as our department, corporation counsel's office department is concernced, because we're the ones who are asked to interpret things. The departments come to us, ask us what do we think, what should we do, we have to go to something, and that something, when we don't have something updated, is very difficult for us to do" said Corporation Counsel, Bill Borrill.
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