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Old 11-05-2005, 10:37 PM   #1
Josh Brehm
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Out of curiosity, between the PD and the FD, which generally is more enjoyable to work for, which has better pay/benefits/promotional possibilities, and which has more honor and respect behind it? Also if anyone can do so, can someone answer the questions I asked and do so comparing the portland, oregon PD and FD? Thanks!
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Old 11-06-2005, 06:24 AM   #2
Larry Lindenman
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Josh, your probably not going to get a straight answer to this question. If your considering either profession you need to do the research and do a little self discovery. What do you want to do? Both are noble professions, and although they are public service professions, they are very diffrent. I know a few towns in Illinois which have public safety departments where the officers are police and firefighters. That way you don't have to choose.
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Old 11-06-2005, 10:39 AM   #3
Steve Sawyer
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The pay is generally about the same. The public perception is not, however. Case in point: I was going to a recent Bears game with 3 cop buddies. The cute young lady directing people to their seats was flirtatious with us. One of the guys said "We three are cops" She barely responded, looked bored. Then he pointed to me and said "and he's a fireman." She lit up like a firecracker, with a big smile. Made my day.
Another consideration is schedule. Cops typically work 8 hr days. Here in Chicago they work 6 on, 2 off. We work 24 hrs on, 48 off, with other breaks. But then again, cops get guns. It's all in how you look at it.
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Old 11-06-2005, 10:55 PM   #4
Robert Thompson
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I guess this would be both an introduction and an answer to your question. I found Crossfit a few months ago by way of a post at the ConceptII rowing forum. I had been using my C2 for general fitness and supplementing with dumbells / bodyweight conditioning, so when I saw that Crossfit used the C2 in some of the workouts, I knew I had to try it. Needless to say, I'm loving it...

As far as the PD vs FD question, I've worked for the last 19 yrs in Broward County Fl, where the County Fire Dept. was merged with the Broward Sheriff's Dept. due to the incompetence of the County Commissioners to oversee the Fire Dept. Now both law enforcement and fire-rescue are under the command of the Sheriff. This is NOT a public safety dept. where the deputies function as firefighters / paramedics/ EMT. We still have two command structures between law enforcement and fire-rescue, but it is one agency.

I'm currently assigned as a flight medic / tactical observer to the aviation unit (helicopter) which performs both EMS and law enforcement missions. This has given me the opportunity to observe many of the differences between law enforcement and fire-rescue.

Like Steve Sawyer wrote, most FDs work the 24hr on and 48hr off schedule. All FDs here in S. Florida also have a 3 week Kelly day schedule. The Kelly day is the reason most FFs have boats and spend their time in the Keys fishing. When you work a 24on / 48off schedule, you will have worked each day of the week once in a 3 week cycle. In two of the three weeks, you work 2 shifts of 24hrs = 48hrs/week. For instance, you go to work Mon.(24on) and you're off Tue & Wed (48), go to work Fri.(24on), and you're off Sat. Sun. (48).

Fortunately, there is one week where you work 3 shifts - Sun (24on), off Mon & Tue; Wed (24on), off Thur & Fri; Sat (24on) = 72hrs in one week. Rather than pay the OT, you get a shift off (Kelly day) once in the three week cycle, which makes your average 48hrs/wk every 3wk cycle. The Kelly days are usually assigned by seniority. If your day is Monday, then each time you would work Monday, you don't. Therefore, you have Sat & Sun off, you don't work Mon., and then you have Tue & Wed off - this gives you 5 days off in a row every 3 weeks - sweeeeet!

This type of schedule allows for many, including myself, to work a second/part-time job. You still "work" 48hrs / wk, but it is the way your time is arranged that allows you to work another job, fish, dive, travel, or crossfit yourself into a coma. Working the alpha, bravo, charlie shifts (8hrs) of law enforcement means you'll be going to work 5 days a week -- I could NEVER go back to something like that.

Like Steve also stated, a big difference is public perception. People hate cops, except when they need one. My father-in-law is a retired police officer and tells me there is NO WAY he could've been a cop in today's world. He told me this joke about how the city had two lines for jobs - one with guns and bullets (PD), the other with pillows and blankets (FD). He then says, "I got in the wrong line."

As a firefighter, it doesn't matter if half of the town burns down 'cause as long as you put the fire out, you saved the day! Way to go HERO!!And during the Christmas parade, does Santa usually ride on the fire engine or in the police car?? See a pattern here?

The majority of FDs also provide EMS for their city / county. Are you also considering that as part of the choice? Very few departments are "fire only" and as EMS usually comprises 90% of the calls, you might be disappointed with the lack of "rippin' fires" while you find yourself assigned to the "gut box." (NY, Chicago, Detroit, Boston and a few others excluded)

Regardless of whether you choose FD or PD, look at what the dept. has to offer besides the basics. Does the FD have a HazMat team, Technical Rescue Team (rope rescue, confined space) or other specialties? Does the PD have SWAT, crime scene investigation or other specialzied services? If you want to get the most out of a public service career, you'll need choices later to keep you motivated in learning new tasks and assignments. Small departments who can't afford the different specialty teams may leave you unsatisfied and looking elsewhere. Picking the right department may be as important as which career you choose.

Neither job will make you rich, but you will see things the rest of the world only does on the news or out of their car window as they go rubberneckin' by.

Therefore, either job should make you appreciate your health, sanity, house, food, clothes, family all the more, because you'll see people who've lost all those things (for various reasons) and are never going to get them back.

As far as honor and respect, you'll get the respect of others if you perform the job honorably, regardless of which job you choose.

I have tremendous respect for anyone who chooses a law enforcement career because from what I've seen it is the more difficult/stressful of the two. I don't think it is a bad choice, but I would look for a good department where career opportunities are varied and plentiful.

I hope this wasn't too long and good luck in your choice.
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Old 11-06-2005, 11:21 PM   #5
Josh Brehm
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First off, Welcome Robert! Glad you found our site, hope you enjoy it here! Second, thanks a lot for your input, it helps immensely. I know I'm going to volunteer for the semi-local fire department, at least for a little while for the experience and to see if I enjoy what they do, and I'm also going to be loading up on ride alongs with all the different police departments around Oregon to see if I truly want to get into that.

The things that are causing me to really look into the FD are; your job is to help people, and I love to do that, and to get recognized as doing a good job at it too for the most part if I truly did. the work schedual, you basically can't beat that work schedual (I get paid to sleep for part of it!) unless you're rich and don't need to work to get money. the honor of being a fireman, everyone loves firemen, they respect them and look up to them.

As for police(sheriff or city pd) the reasons behind why I want to join are; your job is about helping people, but you don't get the appreciation for it nearly as well as you do a fireman. they pay you to carry a gun. i'm sick of people who can get away with things such as murder or rape, and for a while i've wanted to become a detective to be able to find these people and lock them up, but at the same time, i could also go into arson investigation through the fire department.

I do have a few more questions regarding the FD if I may... how's job security as a fireman? Do firemen have good benefits/retirement plans? How long can you work as a fireman before they make you retire? (I want to work as long as possible in life) What type of education is required for Oregon (portland) firemen? What happens if you can't get hired?

Sorry for all of the questions, it's just I'm new to the whole fire and rescue deal so I tend to ask a lot of questions at first. Thanks!
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Old 11-06-2005, 11:36 PM   #6
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Hopefully someone will chime in with some more specific Portland info however my understanding in Oregon is the city of Portland has its own pension system separate from the state of Oregon. In Washington, state law prohibits that so we all (PD and FD) have the same pension calculation based on years of service and final average salary. We are vested at 53 with I believe a minimum of 5 years in. This is called a defined benefit plan. Check the state of Oregon or city of Portland's web pages it should be all spelled out.
Currently we have no post retirement medical coverage which would be an awesome benefit since some retirements/disabilites are from job related injuries.

Generally job security is fairly good. If there are cuts it will likely hit PD and FD not just one.

As far as investigation goes, sometimes that is handled by a PD investigation unit, it is entirely dependant on how the jurisdiction has been set-up.

Either way both careers are great ways to serve the community and not get bored because the day/shift is always different. One thing I have noticed though is we occasionally se police officers testing to become fireman however I have NEVER seen a fireman test to become a cop....
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Old 11-07-2005, 08:09 AM   #7
Steve Sawyer
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Another point to make: On every 24 hr shift I get to sleep at least a few hours. Yes it's often interrupted, but I still get rest. And on 90% of my work days I work out at work, if I have the energy.
As Peder notes: cops frequently come our way, but none of us goes that way. Chicago PD has a test every 2-3 yrs, and they're scraping for people. The last test for CFD was 10 yrs ago, and there were 35,000 takers.
I hope I haven't sounded down on police. My best friend is a cop. It's just that if there's a choice, I think being a FF has more potential for long term rewards. I've known of many people who have left law enforcement after only a few years, while guys on CFD rouinely stay 20+ yrs.
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Old 11-07-2005, 05:45 PM   #8
Robert Thompson
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I do have a few more questions regarding the FD if I may... how's job security as a fireman? Do firemen have good benefits/retirement plans? How long can you work as a fireman before they make you retire? (I want to work as long as possible in life) What type of education is required for Oregon (portland) firemen? What happens if you can't get hired?


Job security is great compared to the private sector. Most politicians do not want the publicity of laying off firefighters or police officers, but I would look at the financial situation of the city / county and have they actually or threatened to layoff firefighters. The last people hired are usually the first to be layed off, so finding out the history of the dept. might help in making a choice.

Once again, compared to the private sector, benefits are good. Retirement is often through the city or state where you work. Mine is 25yrs with 75% of the average of my 5 highest and is through the State of Florida. All contributions are through the employer, not me. City departments may have different numbers, such as 20yrs with 70-80%, but members often have to contribute part of their pay, maybe 5%-10%.

You can work as long as you're healthy. Firefighter usually don't live very long after retirement. I've heard about some study that found it to be approx. 8yrs. Some like to use that as indication of how "stressful" the job is physically, but I'm more inclined to believe it stems from lack of personal responsibility for one's health. There are still a lot of firefighters who smoke, eat wrong, and are overweight/out of shape. Most guys are fit when they get hired and go downhill after that. Part of the reason I'm here is because I was heading that way. Prior to finding Crossfit, I began eating paleo/low-carb and dropped 45lbs along with increasing my exercise. Crossfit has only boosted the fitness even more.

Not sure what education requirements are in Portland, but most departments would require you to be a certified firefighter and an EMT. If you're a paramedic, then perhaps your chances are better at being hired because of the increased training. It all depends on the department's need. Depending on the amount of people trying to obtain certs in your area, you're looking at about 2yrs of education to be ready for hire. If you have military experience or a college degree, that sometimes helps in the hiring, but isn't usually required.

If you can't get hired, don't give up. A lot of people don't get hired with the first department where they put an application in. Keep looking for opportunities, especially in areas where a lot of people are moving to. This creates the need for more stations/manning, so those areas are going to be hiring. Some cities with little growth and little turnover may only hire a couple of people a year. Don't get fixated on one department and you have to be willing to go where the jobs are. At the same time, don't settle for a lousy dept. just because they are desperate for people.
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Old 11-07-2005, 10:58 PM   #9
Josh Brehm
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Wow... why am I getting so interested in the FD... Nother question, I'm looking into going into the marine or army reserves to help pay for college and maybe do it long term to have a double retirement fund (military and fd/pd). Is it possible to be both reserve and a fireman at the same time? Reserve's train with the military 1 weekend (not sure how long a weekend) a month and 2 weeks a year, would this interfere or decrease my chances of getting into the FD if I wanted to do so?
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Old 11-08-2005, 06:06 AM   #10
Larry Lindenman
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I guess I have to stand up for my policing bretheren. I've been a detective since 1994. Prior to that I was in uniform. I did notice a diffrence in respect pre-Rodney King, but there was a shift after 9-11 back to the center. The police schedule is tough, especially on patrol, but often times I say..."I can't believe their paying me to do this!" There is nothing like the hunt, capture, and ultimately, getting the person to confess, against his/her better judgement. Taking a murderer, rapist, child molester, or other Sh*& head off the street is satifying beyond belief. Also, I have recieved unbelievable training: fastroping, shooting, close quarter battle, sniper, fast driving, etc. I get paid well, have amazing retirement benifits (80% at 26 3/4 years) and it's really a lot of fun (when you take out the politics). Big city firefighters gain a lot of experience and work often, most of the suburban departments get real good at washing trucks and cooking food, not real sure about the departments in small cities.
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