Policy of Fire Commissioner Johnson.
After two months in office, the rank and file of the fire department have hung the “O. K.” medal on Commissioner Joseph Johnson, Jr. With the acquisition of the “O. K.” decoration Commissioner Johnson’s work is half accomplished. He can go ahead and do things with a carefree mind. Without this bond of sympathy between master and man nothing can be accomplished—the morale, the esprit do corps of the department becomes nil, giving place to discontent, lax discipline and factional strife. More than one of Commissioner Johnson’s predecessors who lacked ability to make good with the men will admit all this. Not so “joe” Johnson. He is the boss, and the men know it. They also like it. They want a man, not a mollycoddle. to give orders, and they’ve decided that Mr. Johnson measures up to the job.
It took the men just one week Jo find out that the new Commissioner was not an easy mark. That was after the first trial day. Observance of the quick, energetic manner in which he disposed of the first cases that came before him convinced those awaiting trial that he was on the job. Old time excuses, real standbys in times of trouble, were swept aside and argument cut short with “Ten days. Next case!”
“How was he, ‘Bill’? Easy?” asked a late comer, also “on the carpet.” of a fellow mourner whom he met outside of headquarters.
“Easy nothing,” said “Bill.” If you’re in wrong, say so, and take your chances. Doift pull any of the old stuff. He’s wise and won’t stand for it. What are you up for?”
“Booze,” said the other.
“Good night!” exclaimed Bill.” “You ain’t got a chance in the world.”
He hadn’t. “Bill” was right. If there is one thing that Commissioner Johnson will not stand for among the men in the department it is drinking. Any man up on charges before him on this complaint is dismissed. His sense of justice may be tempered with mercy in other instances of dereliction in duty, but not for alcoholism.
“What good is an intoxicated fireman?” he asks. “No good. A man may have bravery, courage, daring qualities that go to make up a first class fireman, hut of what avail would all these he, if, when ‘loaded up’ lie had to carry a woman or child out of a burning building ? 1do not hold a brief for the prohibition party, but absolute sobriety must be the rule for every man in the department, while he is on duty.” Despite the fact that he is a strict disciplinarian and recognized now as such, he is also human, with a saving sense of humor. These qualities stick out all over him, in every hair of his red head— closely cropped, a la pompadour; in his bluegray eyes, the twinkle of which refuses to be concealed behind heavy glasses; in the firm mouth, thin lipped, and in jaw and chin which, despite the curves, give one an impression of squareness. Clean shaven with the exception of a stubby, aggressive mustache, and boyish looking, wearing a cap and smoking a long stemmed briar wood pipe, Commissioner Johnson belies his forty years. He resembles more a student— which he once was. being a graduate of the University of Alabama—than the old accepted type of a Commissioner, when political activity rather than real ability was rewarded. The Commissioner is a worker—a hard worker, lie always was. There are no clocks in his office, and if there were he wouldn’t notice them. His day is done when his desk is cleared ami the things to le accomplished have been accomplished.
“When are you through. ‘Joe’?” asked an intimate friend who called on him the other day to invite him out to dinner.
“When I’m finished,” said the Commissioner, as he plowed through a mass of papers on his desk, gave orders to this one or that, dictated letters and waded through a wealth of other details. “lie’s a wonder,” say the men in the outside office “He just eats up work.” That’s the secret of his success. That’s the reason whyafter fourteen years in New York he has made good and reached a goal in the city government usually attained by only men of much maturer years. At the present time the chief matter engrossing the attention of Commissioner Johnson is improving the physical standing of the department.
“The men of the department are essentially athletes and must keep in trim all the time time. The man with a paunch is hampered as an efficient worker. My idea is that a man in the department five, ten, fifteen and even twenty years should, be in as good physical condition as the young man just entering the department. There is no reason why this should not lie so, if the men take care of themselves and lead a clean, abstemious life. Most of them do. 1 realize that when a man has his day off the tendency is to get a bit sociable with his fellow men over a friendly glass. That’s all right and proper if they don’t overdo it. They have a hard life, very hard.”