By JOHN KANELIS
You know it and I know it, too. When police officers and firefighters suit up for duty, when they honor their oath to “protect and serve” the public, they are performing hazardous duty.
We also know that as far as police work is concerned that there is no such thing as a “routine traffic stop.” Firefighters know all too well that every emergency call they get – be it a medical or a fire emergency – that there’s certainly nothing routine about what they do.
But we’ve entered a new phase of hazardous duty and this week the Farmersville City Council acted on a request from Police Chief Mike Sullivan to compensate police officers with extra pay for extraordinarily hazardous duty related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The council approved an extension to an ordinance that declared a mayoral emergency declaration in Farmersville. The ordinance is now set to expire on May 15. However, the council agreed to pay police officers and two fire department officials extra money for the calls they answer while the nation is fighting the health outbreak.
Farmersville reports 11 residents have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, although that number might change rapidly. When police and firefighters respond to a call, they well might be dealing up close with someone who is infected with the virus. That is why Sullivan sought the extra hazardous duty pay for his officers; Sullivan also included Fire Chief Kim Morris and Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Linsman among those first responders who should get the extra pay. Farmersville’s fire department is a volunteer force, with just two paid full-time firefighters, Morris and Linsman.
The city has approved a $13,000 payout over the next month to compensate the responders for the hazardous duty they are performing on behalf of the city’s residents. The council will revisit the budget amendment over the next month; it might extend the hazardous duty pay if the city maintains its emergency declaration.
This is a sound call. It speaks well of the City Council that it would respond readily to Chief Sullivan’s request.
I want to point out, too, that Sullivan didn’t say a single self-serving word during his presentation about the potential danger his officers or the firefighters face when they suit up during this perilous time. He didn’t need to say it. Indeed, everyone knows and certainly should appreciate what they do in service to the public.
John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.
Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.