Call it a slow burn.
Like most municipal agencies, the Sacramento Fire Department’s recent history has been about spreading slimming resources as thinly as possible. But that doesn’t mean department officials got a pass from the city’s Office of Public Safety Accountability, which dinged SFD for at least the second straight year for not having a proper system in place to investigate complaints.
The department used to have an internal investigations arm, but it was one of the first limbs cut when the economy tanked. Current complaints are handled in-house by battalion chiefs with no investigative training and close relationships with staff.
OPSA’s repeat-recommendation was a splash of cold water for a department that scored “incompletes” in the accountability office’s 2012 report released last month.
The city budget adopted June 4 included money for such a position, according to OPSA director Francine Tournour.
It isn’t yet known when or whether the position will be filled.
OPSA’s 2012 report showed that complaints of misconduct against the fire department dropped by 25 percent. But that may be due to the slow response time the fire department has for investigating such complaints. Twenty-two of the 52 total complaints the department received were pending further investigation. Another two cases were dropped “due to the Department not processing the cases in a timely manner,” the report states.
Investigations must be completed within one year of the date the complaint is made, according to OPSA.
Six complaints were sustained, while another 15 proved either unfounded or unsubstantiated, according to the report.
A plurality of allegations—23 of 52—involved complaints of poor service or discourtesy.