As I am sure you have read, heard, or seen, there has been a lot of discussion about the Department in the news media over the last few weeks, with focus squarely on our Academy in Ione and the actions taken following the California Highway Patrol's recent investigation.
On March 4th, at our first Legislative budget hearing of the year, I took an opportunity to brief members on the actions that the Department has taken at the Academy, what we are doing to move forward in light of those actions, and what the Legislature can expect in the future.
Against a backdrop of speculation and supposition, it is important for me to share those comments with each of you. You all need to know where I stand and what my expectations are as we move forward. The text of my message to the Legislature follows:
I want to address the recent problems that we have had at our Academy in Ione. As we have briefed your staff, as a result of the allegations made during a murder inquiry involving one of our former employees, I requested an investigation by CHP into activities at the Academy. I requested their assistance not only because of the serious nature of the allegation, but because I did not know whether the outcome would be administrative or criminal, and so the review would be independent and impartial.
I and my staff are grateful to you for your time and willingness to meet with us as these events have unfolded. As we move forward, I am happy to provide additional briefings on the steps we have taken to address the issues at our Academy.
CAL FIRE is an organization of over 7,000 men and women who are committed to public safety and the natural resources of this State. We ask these men and women to protect the people and resources of the State, often at great personal cost to them and their families. The actions of the small number of individuals at the Academy should not be allowed to detract from the overwhelming number of dedicated public servants in this Department. As you expect from me, I took action to quickly and thoroughly address the conduct of these individuals to allow CAL FIRE to move forward into the challenges that 2015 will present.
The episode at the Academy is a very clear example of how the behavior of a few employees can negatively impact the public perception of our organization as a whole. The behavior of these employees do not represent our values; we all have a responsibility to ensure we are demonstrating CAL FIRE's stated values each and every day. In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to discuss this at all levels within the Department. In the short term, I would like each of us to take a fresh look at the following items:
· CAL FIRE's Mission, Vision and Values
In the coming weeks, I will be asking that we all document our understanding of the principles in each of these items.
As I said in my remarks to the Legislature, I take issues such as these seriously, and we will continue to address them. By the same token, I know we are an organization that is relied upon every day because of our professionalism, skill level, and expertise in the mission we perform. Our focus must be to continue meeting that mission with the same dedication that we have historically shown.
Chief Ken Pimlott
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