Southwest Texas State University and Austin Fire Department, Austin,
Discussions on conflict within the fire service literature have centered mostly on labor and management relations (Grant and Hoover, 1994; Coleman and Gravito, 1988). The literature, however, has not explored the effect of functional specialization w ithin departments that create a “chasm” between line and staff. It has been my experience that as officers and fire department personnel move from line assignments to staff assignments, and back again, they have at endency to adopt different attitudes, perceptions, and feelings toward the organization and its decisions. Furthermore, philosophical differences between line and staff are exacerbated as the mission of fire departments change from emergency response to emergency prevention.
This dichotomy in function and perception has a tendency to create an attitude of animosity and negative energy between the two functional groups of line and staff. To illustrate these points this chapter offers a quantitative and qualitative examination of line and staff interactions in a large southwestern metropolitan fire department. At a minimum, this research seeks to provide a greater understanding of the root causes of conflict, which interplay in line-staff relations. The chapter concludes by discussing the implications of the findings.