Over the last few years I have spent significant time preparing and presenting discussions that have tackled broad scale legal topics within the fire service. I would sometimes spend my entire presentation time speaking on a single topic: Consolidations, the impact of Missouri’s medical marijuana legalization, fire department budget and finance issues, to name a few. As you might imagine those types of topics are broad and deep, and even when you focus an entire 90-minute presentation on them you can’t really take a deep dive into the many working parts, pitfalls, or specific legal aspects.
In my unique position as a former fire chief and current attorney I am afforded the opportunity to spend time with a lot of folks in the fire service. What I have found during these interactions is this: There are so many different legal areas that fire chiefs (especially new/aspiring fire chiefs) are expected to have functional knowledge of that it can be overwhelming, or impossible to get up to speed. After speaking with a bundle of fire chiefs, up-and-coming officers, and elected officials over the last few years and soliciting input, I took that information and went back through the conversations and communications I have had with departments and districts I represent or have counseled over the past few years. What I found was a pattern of questions and inquires—a group of “usual suspects”—that kept coming up. And that is how the Fire Chief’s Legal Toolkit Series was born.
The Legal Toolkit Series will cover a variety of legal “stuff” in bite-size components. My intent is not to take a single, comprehensive look into any one issue; rather, I’m going to try and give you some nutshell concepts, break bigger things that are important into component parts for easier consumption, and avoid legalese as much as possible. I’m not going to make you an expert; The idea is to help with basic understanding, not just toss a bunch of buzzwords around. I want you to have the knowledge necessary to survive, stay out of legal trouble, and understanding what your lawyer is telling you when necessary. The more you understand these concepts the better our service and leadership will be.
And ultimately, if I give you some information that provokes a little thought, causes a policy review or two, or helps you build a relationship with your attorney then I will consider it a mission accomplished.