Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Sept. 27, 2012)

Put On a Happy Face

By Bob Cooper


A couple of years ago I wrote a column about a Langley Fireman who was disciplined for lowering the flag at his firehouse to half-staff on 9-11 (Backdraft).  I recall thinking at the time that in terms of insensitivity, it would be pretty hard to top this one.  Well, never underestimate the ability of determined bureaucrats.  In a move that was as disrespectful as it was just plain stupid, management at the BC Ambulance Service has ordered the removal of plaques bearing the photographs of 10 members of BCAS who have given their lives in the performance of their duty since 1974.  These memorials have been located in the Vancouver, Prince George, and Kamloops regional offices since 2006.  A memorial will be maintained at the BCAS Headquarters in Victoria, where few paramedics will ever see it.

The Vancouver Police always had two bronze plaques in a lighted display case in the lobby of 312 Main Street.  One had the names of members who left to fight in WWI and WWII and never returned while the other had the names of the 16 members who have been killed on duty since 1886.  Since 9-11, large photos of those 16 members have been prominently displayed above the elevators in the lobby of 2120 Cambie St. so that every visitor and every employee are reminded of the sacrifice they made.  It’s an integral part of the culture of the VPD and every police station or firehouse I’ve visited anywhere in the world has one.  They exist because emergency services like police, fire, and ambulance are different than any other government department.  We run into places that everyone else is running out of.

In a memo to all staff, (BCAS memorial wall memo .pdf) Chief Operating Officer Les Fisher mentions that ‘every dispatcher has had to walk by the reminder of our darkest days as they enter their workplace’.  I found that line interesting, made some inquiries, and found that what the memo purposely avoided revealing was that the photos were ordered removed as a result of a complaint by an employee who apparently found them disturbing.  Full of typical management buzzwords and catch phrases, the memo pays lip service to those who have fallen but stresses that their loss should not be what defines the BCAS as an organization.  While I’d agree that their loss alone should not define the organization it most certainly should be part of it and prominently so.  This morning Global News covered the assembly of paramedics who gathered at the Vancouver Office to pay respect to their fallen colleagues and protest the action of management.  Some, moved to the point of tears, apparently didn’t get the happy, cheery, positive-spin message in Mr. Fisher’s memo.  What they heard went more like ‘Thanks for the sacrifice folks, but your presence bothers someone so down you come’.

Frankly, any employee (or employees as they’re now trying to spin it) who finds a memorial to fallen colleagues upsetting likely has other issues and perhaps should be in another line of work.   At the very least they have selfishly put their own feelings ahead of the majority who want the memorial to stay and are quite upset at its removal.  It’s all indicative of today’s weak, timid, management in many organizations which would do just about anything to avoid offending anyone for any reason, no matter how ridiculous.  A true leader would have told them to get stuffed.  As my late, and very wise mother-in-law used to say, “Whole world upside down”.



Bob Cooper is a retired Vancouver policeman.  He walked a beat in Chinatown and later worked in the Asian Organized Crime Section and the Homicide Squad.



Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2012