Public Servants, that’s what we used to call them, Public Servants. The name was supposed to be a literal description of the basis of their jobs; that is, there were to serve the public within whatever sphere they were hired into. There were rules for them to follow and, of course, they were expected to display the correct demeanor towards members of the public. Then came unions, to protect the public servants from not only the misdeeds of higher public servants but the public itself. With unions came the inability to dispense discipline in a timely fashion resulting in public servants being placed on paid leave for years while the wheels of government measured their distance in portions of inches vice feet or miles. Then came the concept of suing if one did not like the process and that lengthened the proceedings even further.
Because it was so difficult and time consuming to either discipline or dismiss a public servant those above them chose to do nothing. While the process was in the rising bowl the public itself began to change. Suing public servants became an undertaking encouraged by the myriad lawyers being churned out by famous and not so famous law schools. This further exacerbated the situation. Now, mind you, not all the law suits filed against public servants are frivolous but enough are to make being sued a heavy weight in the backs of the minds of each public servant as they don whatever uniform they wear on a daily basis. This affects how they do their jobs.
And then, sensing the concern of the public, came the politicians ever ready to point fingers and scream on behalf of their constituents. Many of these office bearers, forgetting that they themselves are the original public servants, pour rhetorical fuel upon the already high flames of the fires of public dissatisfaction. Then we are where we are now and that is nowhere. Some public servants continued to abuse their offices infuriating the public and there seems no path out of the flaming forest of mistrust and vexation.
Yet there is an answer although it is neither a quick fix nor an easy path, but it will lead us back into the meadows. Begin with the public servants who are supposed to write the rules for the others, the politicians. Let the politicians who promise but do not deliver feel the heat of the fire on their feet. Form political action groups to remove those politicians and replace them with new public servants who will do what they promise.
Further we must recognize the stress of many of the public servant positions like police, firemen and social workers. Today when they suit up for duty they go out into an environment every bit as dangerous as a soldier in an active combat zone for that is what our society has allowed to develop. It isn’t just the inner cities, the dangers are just as frightening in the small towns and rural areas of the country. Too many of the public cannot see the daily stress that leads to traumatic stress building daily in our public safety servants.
The new politicians must provide better training, more facilities for mental health care and periodic forced sabbaticals for these public sector workers. At the same time unions must begin to demonstrate a concern not just for their members but the public as a whole.
Each member of the public must put aside emotion and use logic to solve this increasingly difficult problem. Use your voice and most importantly your ballot to demand changes that are needed. Insist upon research and development of new weapons that will allow police to subdue assailants without significant harm to either. Don’t just complain for complaining seldom achieves anything. Be proactive. School yourselves on the dangers to public servants and find individuals to run for public office who will actively make the needed changes. When looking for answers in either the field of public service and politics remember, the answer begins with you.
Excellent opinion piece, Tony. Spot on.