The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed an audit assessing the opportunities for civilianization in the Chicago Fire Department (CFD). OIG found that CFD could save an estimated $1.2 million annually by civilianizing 34 positions and eliminating 1 position.
The audit examined the positions and duties of firefighters and paramedics—uniformed members of the Department. If a position did not meet at least one of the following criteria established by OIG and CFD it was considered eligible for civilianization:
- The training required of firefighters or paramedics directly supports the position’s present duties.
- The position’s duties benefit sufficiently from firefighting or paramedic experience and credibility.
- The position manages or supervises positions engaged in firefighting or paramedic functions.
OIG concluded that the Department assigned 35 firefighters and paramedics to positions that did not require firefighting or medical emergency response training and experience, including Mail Delivery, Commissary Liaison, and FOIA/Subpoena Compliance Support. OIG further determined that the City could save an estimated $1.2 million annually by eliminating the Commissary Liaison position and using civilians in the remaining roles. In its response, the Department agreed with OIG’s assessment for 32 of 34 members’ positions recommended for civilianization, and disagreed with the recommendation to eliminate the commissary liaison position.
CFD also committed to reviewing all assignments for further opportunities for civilianization within the Department. OIG believes those additional opportunities are signaled by the fact, among others, that CFD does not have a comprehensive inventory of position descriptions and that CFD currently uses uniformed personnel to perform functions such as “fire inspector” that other major cities like New York and Philadelphia staff with civilians. Both the audit and Department’s response note that collective bargaining agreements must be considered before positions are civilianized and OIG further suggests that, where such restrictions exist, the City may wish to negotiate for the removal of such provisions at the next opportunity.
In addition to identifying civilianization opportunities, OIG found that CFD provided at least 13 reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act either informally or without proper approval. The Department agreed with OIG’s recommendation that it ensure all reasonable accommodation requests are submitted to DHR’s Disability Officer for review and approval or denial and explained that it implemented such compliance procedures over the summer.
“The City makes a substantial investment in training CFD firefighters and paramedics to be the best in class providers of critical public safety services,” said Inspector General Joseph Ferguson. “CFD does not make the most effective and efficient use of that specialized, tax-payer subsidized training and expertise when it assigns a segment of its skilled ranks to administrative functions that could be performed by civilians. We therefore applaud CFD’s embrace of OIG-identified civilianization opportunities that will lead to a more efficient use of the Department’s specialized resources, more effective deployment of personnel, and potentially millions of dollars in overtime savings. I encourage the Department and union representatives to work cooperatively to pursue additional opportunities that we believe exist to get firefighters and paramedics back into positions where they can reengage their training and skills and best serve the people of Chicago.”
The full report, and the City’s response to the findings, can be found online.
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