You may have heard your boss or supervisor use the term "open door policy" at one point or another. Supposedly, it means your boss is open to hearing what you have to say, in the spirit of collaboration and increasing transparency. To some workers, it means they can open up to their bosses, without fear of discrimination or intimidation or losing their jobs.
It's a term San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood has used frequently since he was sworn in with the San Antonio Fire Department in April 2007.
But while Chief Hood's achievements are plenty -- he currently runs one of the largest fire departments in the nation -- holding an "open door" policy isn't exactly one of those achievements, according to the following few people:
A firefighter, dying of cancer, telling Chief Hood he felt like he had been forgotten by the SAFD
The father of a fired SAFD Academy Cadet, also a San Antonio Firefighter, who said Chief Hood refused to have a meeting with him
"At his funeral, Chief Hood actually called him the wrong name several times," a firefighter and close friend of firefighter Danny Vera who eventually died of cancer in April 2016.
He said Vera, who was dealing with late stage colon cancer, had actually tried to get a meeting with the Chief several times. Vera told his friend he felt like the San Antonio Fire Department had turned its back on him.
Undoubtedly, the office of the Chief is very busy. He may have been very busy when Vera reached out. He may also have been very busy when a firefighter with 30 years on the force and the father of a fire cadet who was terminated from the San Antonio Fire Academy requested a meeting.
The Chief reached out to the father several weeks after the matter -- but it was long after he had already said the issue was closed and he would no longer discuss it.
"I learned a long time ago as a busy engine captain that building strong relationships with my personnel is a critical component in providing great internal customer service. Our firefighters, paramedics and civilian employees are expected to provide stellar customer service to our citizens, some of whom may be having the worst day of their life. Customer service begins with me. It is my belief that you must lead by example."
As we addressed on Oct. 11, 20 San Antonio Fire Department Battalion Chiefs have formed a committee to address serious and systematic issues of morale within the San Antonio Fire Department, not exactly what you would expect to hear about a Chief who supposedly has an open door policy. Their committee is concerned with recent history of heavy-handed and unfair disciplinary actions, harassment and intimidation of personnel, training emphasis on diet and fitness at the expense of firefighting skills, and episodes of injury and hospitalization of cadets at the SAFD Training Academy.
It came after repeated attempts to alert the Chief about morale issues. They said the Chief denied their concerns.
Speaking to members of the San Antonio media later, Chief Charles Hood again brought up the "open door."
To the San Antonio Express-News, he said “We do have an open door, so if the union president wants to come to me to talk about issues, he’s more than welcome,” Hood said. “That’s more effective than sending a letter and having a press conference.”
"They can always come in and talk to any person on our staff, but it is a two-way street as far as us reaching out and them reaching out and communicating," he said.
It's a nice thing to hear -- even reassuring. It certainly sounds pleasant on the ears of the hundreds of thousands of people reading and watching the news. Unfortunately, these words doing nothing in quelching the resentment and disapointment of the 1,600 men and women that call him Chief when they realize these hollow words mean nothing.
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