The Vashon Island Fire & Rescue Board of Commissioners voted last week to install a roughly $15,000 security surveillance camera system, but commissioner candidate Brigitte Schran-Brown and firefighters who are part of the local union were quick to call for a second look at the project. Schran-Brown says her call for reconsideration comes mostly because the cameras are to be installed inside the vehicle and maintenance bays where staff members work, not simply outside, and that installing them raises both financial and morale concerns at the district, which faces challenges in both areas.
Randy Tonkin, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 4189, said that the union also takes issue with the fact that the cameras will be placed inside, in places where firefighters will be working. Tonkin said the union this week informed VIFR administrators that installing surveillance cameras "to monitor employee activities is a change of working conditions and requires negotiation."
"The (VIFR) administration agreed, which appears to be an affirmation that they actually intend to monitor volunteers and employees at VIFR," Tonkin said Tuesday. "We are unaware of any particular incident that would have been a catalyst for this action and are unclear why the commission would want to treat members of the organization this way. We are concerned about the message it sends to our hard-working men and women at VIFR and believe it would do nothing but deteriorate morale and foster an atmosphere of distrust. Furthermore, when we operate on such a tight budget, we question if this is the best use of taxpayer money."
Following the Thursday meeting where the decision to install the cameras was made, VIFR commissioner Rex Stratton said that the board has been "kicking the idea" of a surveillance system around for months due to concerns about security. Stratton said that commissioner Ron Turner proposed the idea by stating that if the department keeps downsizing, there may not be enough people to watch the station 24/7.