Nearly every one of the senior deputies in the Boston Fire Department have lodged a formal complaint of "no-confidence" against Chief Steve Abraira, saying he failed to take the lead in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attack. Thirteen of the department's 14 deputy chiefs signed a letter to the Mayor Tom Menino, laying out their frustration with Abraira, who they describe a "ghost chief" who refused to take command of the situation as the city was reeling from the Boston Marathon bombing.
The letter read, in part:
At a time when the City of Boston needed every first responder to take decisive action, Chief Abraira failed to get involved in operational decision-making or show any leadership. You can unequivocally consider this letter a vote of no confidence in Chief Abraira.
The deputies say that Abraira never announced his presence on department radios and never took any command authority to oversee the citywide response. They say he altered a long-standing policy that required the highest-ranking firefighter on the scene to take command in emergency situations, and his behavior was the same at other recent incident in the last year. They claim that instead of assuming command at a large six-alarm fire in East Boston, Abraira climbed to the roof of a nearby building so he could take of a photo of himself with the fire in the background for his "scrapbook."
In response, Abraira says that he sees his role as administrative and it wasn't necessary for him to take command during the crisis. He said his deputies were handling the situation just fine and its standard nationwide practice "to let them do what they do every day." He added that if the situation warrants him to take over the operation, then "something's wrong," implying that would mean his deputies aren't doing his jobs properly.
Part of the friction between Abraira and the rest of the department may stem from the fact that he is the first chief to be hired from outside the Boston department. (He was previously the chief of the Dallas fire department.) His attempts to change the culture are apparently being met with resistance, but if those serving under him are willing to go to such great lengths to let their displeasure be known, it's hard to see how he can ever be expected to lead them in a real crisis. And they don't get any bigger than what happened in Boston just one month ago today.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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