Here’s what I think

About the Zack Assisted Suicide.

I do NOT understand why the police did not use a bullhorn to communicate with that poor man, or use a rope—or a canine leash—to walk out and talk to Mr. Zack more personally. I was not there. I did not see what transpired. But it doesn’t make any sense at all that they did not go out, right?!

But I have watched the local police for years do damn good work in my neighborhood taking down a drug house. That required repeated, monthly, daytime SWAT-type raids until the drug house was completely shut down. The teams I’ve seen working here in broad daylight and at night too, have been impressive, worthy of our civic pride.  Hell, I’ve even backed my car smack into the trailer hitch of a parked APD SUV (seriously, that’s pretty bad, right?!), and incredibly, the officer was polite, even kind and unalarmed. I was just another foolish Alamedan, and it was nothing serious. (Cops in other cities would have gone all half-cocked on a resident who backed up into them.*)

At the same time, I have watched for years, YEARS, as the AFD fails to perform again and again at critical emergency events, where their failures cause harm. It’s incomprehensible: aren’t they sworn to protect us and our environment?!

I’ve read the AFD’s GOBs (General Operating Bulletins). They are marginal at best. They fail to include critical information that most procedures and protocols (P&Ps) contain. Yes, I’ve read some of the P&Ps for other fire agencies. There is no comparison. The AFD’s GOBs are out of date, incomplete, and dangerously insubstantial. So insubstantial that, IMO, they cannot provide the basis for any firefighter to perform well in the field. This is a long-term problem that the firefighters are well aware of.  Hell, they work with these documents every day! I’ve complained for years for the GOBs to be improved and brought up to date. No one cares. Honestly? It’s my belief that they like it this way. I don’t think the AFD wants to have contemporary standards of performance to adhere to. Great way out of being accused of failures to perform, right?! In-house codified procedures and protocols, consistent with contemporary firefighting standards that should also be combined with corollary information that pertain specifically to our city, are non-existent. 

I saw the AFD enact a water rescue—that required rescue swimmers in the water on boards—in 2008 behind Wind River. There were probably 50+ spectators in the parking lot there that day. The water rescue team did a great job, extracting a suicidal man on a ledge over the deep water. We all cheered after they’d brought the suicidal man safely in and loaded him alive and well, and in need of only a psyche evaluation, onto the ambulance.

So tell me, why did the AFD discontinue the funded water rescue program?  It makes no sense.

Moreover, why didn’t the city or the APD know that the AFD no longer gets wet?!  Why didn’t the AFD tell any other agency that they no longer provide water rescue operations? I’ve asked the city for any documentation, any communication from the AFD to the city explaining their non-water status. As yet, a month after my requests, there have been no documents found or provided.

There is no possible ‘good’ explanation for any of this. Given what a highly political organization the IAFF Local 689 is (you’ll remember the 2010 local elections), there is only one inference to make here: everything about the AFD water rescue program—the discontinuance of the funded program to dry boots on 5/30/2011—is political.  How inhuman, how savage is that? And how wrong to prioritize political goals over the job of protecting human life. How has our city management allowed this to happen?!

And my best guess about the APD-–in looking at the big picture—is that it sucks big time for the APD to have their sister first-responder agency in Alameda be the AFD. I’m just sayin’.

What the hell happened on Memorial Day 2011?! Will we ever know? We must demand to know. The Grijalva investigation must satisfy our questions. Whether a one-man show can, remains to be seen. Whether someone with Grijalva’s highly politically-motivated career can, remains to be seen. I remain skeptical. Highly skeptical….

You’ll remember the 2007 wildfires in Southern California: There were seventeen (17!) active wildfires that raged out of control while dozens of water-dropping aircraft and helicopters sat grounded. 1,500 homes were destroyed. 500,000 acres of land burned between Santa Barbara and the US border at Mexico. The air became so toxic that cities suggested voluntary evacuations for residents to protect their individual health.  The fires ran from October 20th past November 9th when the last one was contained (but still burning).  (!!!)

Ruben Grijalva—the sole person in charge of the investigation into the AFD’s failures on Memorial Day—was the director of Cal Fire responsible for the immense failures in the state’s response to the 2007 fires.

Grijalva was the person responsible for the lack of organization (insufficient staffing, tactical issues), the “bureaucratic condition established by the state”.  That failure was the pinnacle of his career.

So people: what do you do now? Now that you know the city has hired a highly politically-motivated insider to investigate the AFD and her highly politically motivated IAFF Local 689? What will you do?

*Cops in other cities would have ripped me with their egos and demonstrated their positions–I know. The reason I had stopped to talk to the officer, the day that I also backed into him (!), was because an undercover cop had stopped me in Oakland and scared the bejezus out of me. Why had he stopped me? Because I had legally changed lanes on 8th street while driving below the speed limit….but HE was barrelling down from the prior block and my lane change prevented him from speeding past me and the rest of the traffic. Yes: he had time to stop me and for His Ass to go off all half-cocked. Clearly, he did not have an emergency to get to, and taking time to threaten me from his position of authority was most important. He was WAY out of line.


About Denise Lai

Alive. Swim (fly is the best). Walking with my dog (weims are the best). Life is good. Would prefer people understood negative externalities and prevented themselves from creating them. Feeling the love anyway. View all posts by Denise Lai

3 responses to “Here’s what I think

  • T

    Re. Robert Grijalva, why on earth would Alameda hire him after that catastrophe? Do they not do background checks. Ridiculous.

  • Adam Gillitt

    The City of Alameda does background checks. He was chosen because he will deliver the report the City wants, claiming the IAFF did nothing wrong, and it was all a big misunderstanding and there’s nothing to see here, move along.

    If Gilmore and her cronies wanted an impartial investigation with actual findings, they would have chosen someone who wasn’t a politician, nor a former firefighter union leader, and probably someone competent (or several competent people), with the ability to process the whole picture, not just the narrow purview of the AFD’s water response before and after the tragedy, including the APD’s response, inter-agency communication, medical response, USCG’s response, and the condition and use of all available equipment.

    This is an investigation that demands a review by someone with prosecutorial powers: Raymond Zack died needlessly, because of callous indifference, and the compounding of mistake after inappropriate action after blown call. All we’re going to get from Grijalva is a summation of what we already know.

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