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The self-professed "limousine liberal" integrated the department. It would be difficult to find a department in which minorities and women are better represented. Under Brunacini, the department has never been enjoined by a court because of its hiring practices, another rarity.
Often in the face of stern opposition, Brunacini's forced the department to evolve.
Brunacini becomes more animated as he argues that it is this inexorable evolution--not the hiring of his daughter or other firefighters' relatives--that is motivating the naysayers.
But, he says, there is a difference between being compassionate and being soft. While the modern firefighter must be more people-oriented, viewing the public as customers, the firefighter still has a tough job. "Don't take anything that I've said to mean that there's 307 pussycats on duty here," Brunacini says. "Everybody that we hire, we hire them for one reason, and that's to fight. I'll tell you what will drum you out of the academy quicker than somebody making an observation about somebody's fitness, is if you won't attack. We'll lose somebody if they flat-ass won't attack.
"Last year, these people destroyed $35,000 worth of doors driving through them before they were up. That's an interesting group of people to manage. We haven't simultaneously figured out how to make people French poodles and English bulldogs. This work force is very aggressive. It's very tough. It has a sick sense of humor. They're basically psychopaths. They beat the living dog shit out of each other, and we live with that."
Brunacini's got a head of steam going. "This isn't a garden club. Don't take all this positive stuff and say, well, these people every morning hold hands and sing 'We Are the Earth.' This is a group of motivated people."
Don't try again to drag his daughter into any of this. He'll talk about the process, but his family, no. "The City of Phoenix does not pay me to be a father," he says.
But two and a half hours into the interview, Brunacini is again asked about those who question his daughter's hiring. He looks the reporter straight in the eye and says: "Everything that I can think that I would like to do with you and to you is a felony."
He thinks for a moment and adds, "You need to understand, they hired me to fight, too.