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  1. #1
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    Default Cost/benefit for police powers, city department

    Hey guys. The Chief wants a detailed cost benefit report on our unit getting police powers. We only do origin and cause now, but are the experts when we go to court. The PD has no fire investigation trained personnel. We are a 293 member department, with 3 full time fire investigators working one per 24 hour shift. Majority of the time we work alone. The PD is usually so busy and strapped for manpower that when we need a detective they wont show, when they do show the first words out of their mouths is "I hate these fu*&%$g arsons". We want to do our job from origin/cause through prosecution. Thereby eliminating the need for a patrol unit and a detective on most incendiary fires.
    Some cost we know would be training, (Police academy is in our town, we can be temporarily reassigned to days to save on overtime issues), equipment (guns, handcuffs, etc....). What cost am I missing?
    For the benefit, we do the work of crime scene, detectives and patrolmen now, we just dont do the criminal part. What I need is a way to show the Chief that we can save the city money by doing this work ourselves. I know we would still need the assistance of the PD on fatalities and larger incidents. If anyone can help, I would appreciate any and all comments, suggestions and ideas.
    You can post or contact me directly
    Thanks
    Richard H. "arsonk9@insightbb.com"


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    Default

    Before you talk about costs, is there actually enabling legislation in your state to allow this? Is there any other agency that has to approve/support before you can go through with it?

    Costs (np particular order): continuing education and training, regular requalification with weapons (range, ammo, instructors), physicals, evidence facilities, arrest processing facilities, computer facilities to connect with NCIC, AFIS, and other law enforcement databases, background investigations to comply with state LEO regulations, body armor, additional insurance coverage, OT for court (remember, if you're a cop, you're a cop and you are going to have to do other cop stuff if you see it)

    Benefits: Aside from PD OT reduction, I don't see it.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI View Post
    Before you talk about costs, is there actually enabling legislation in your state to allow this? Is there any other agency that has to approve/support before you can go through with it?

    Costs (np particular order): continuing education and training, regular requalification with weapons (range, ammo, instructors), physicals, evidence facilities, arrest processing facilities, computer facilities to connect with NCIC, AFIS, and other law enforcement databases, background investigations to comply with state LEO regulations, body armor, additional insurance coverage, OT for court (remember, if you're a cop, you're a cop and you are going to have to do other cop stuff if you see it)

    Benefits: Aside from PD OT reduction, I don't see it.
    There are 28 Paid FD's in Indiana that have their investigators commissioned as police. All but two of these departments are smaller than ours. We already have our own evidence facility in a secure building with access to only the three of us. We already go through a complete physical every year, psychological testing and so forth. We where background checked as we where hired. The court overtime is not an issue because since we work a 24 hour shift, most of our court time falls on off duty days anyway.
    As for the "if your a cop" reply, there is two different ways to handle this, one is to be commissioned as special police, which would limit our duties to fire related only, or be a cop as you say and watch everything. In the latter, we would not be dispatched as a police officer, and if our duties do not spell out doing traffic stops, DV, bank robberies and the like, that would be minimal. Our police department of 310 officers is well equipped to handle it.
    And, George, your on the private side aren't you? I was hoping for replies from those in the same boat.
    As for your benefit, only helping the PD, how about us being able to pursue cases on our own that the PD is ignoring. Do you think it is better to let the arsons go un-investigated than to give us the authority to investigate what we are trained for?
    Last edited by ussmertzdd691; 11-12-2008 at 06:57 PM.

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    Richard,

    I think for the most part you have it pretty well covered. I do not know how your budget works. It sounds like you have 3 people who work an arson. NFPA 921 best case scenario recommends two people. Figure out what it costs for a beat cop or detective for that matter about mid career in those positions include all the training, equipment, etc. Also include vehicle maintenance/replacement costs as well. Since it sounds like you handle most of it from notification through prosecution. You can probably cut the detective out since they are more costly. I am sure there is training for chain of custody and evidence collection, etc as well you can take. That way you still have a beat cop there with you for security, warrant, etc.

    I know in my town we get most of if not all of the investigators from our office (3 and the boss), plus the shift SGT and LT from PD, 3-4 beat cops, and if it starts leaning one direction we usually get the Sgt Detective or him and another Detective involved. They do a good job working with us on documenting the scene and evidence work. A lot of overkill but up until last year it was only two people from our office. But as the year has gone on fewer of the police are hanging around.

    Good Luck. Let me know if you need to bounce any ideas off.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by LtDanDaFireman View Post
    Richard,

    I think for the most part you have it pretty well covered. I do not know how your budget works. It sounds like you have 3 people who work an arson. NFPA 921 best case scenario recommends two people. Figure out what it costs for a beat cop or detective for that matter about mid career in those positions include all the training, equipment, etc. Also include vehicle maintenance/replacement costs as well. Since it sounds like you handle most of it from notification through prosecution. You can probably cut the detective out since they are more costly. I am sure there is training for chain of custody and evidence collection, etc as well you can take. That way you still have a beat cop there with you for security, warrant, etc.

    I know in my town we get most of if not all of the investigators from our office (3 and the boss), plus the shift SGT and LT from PD, 3-4 beat cops, and if it starts leaning one direction we usually get the Sgt Detective or him and another Detective involved. They do a good job working with us on documenting the scene and evidence work. A lot of overkill but up until last year it was only two people from our office. But as the year has gone on fewer of the police are hanging around.

    Good Luck. Let me know if you need to bounce any ideas off.
    I appreciate your reply Lt. but some things got mixed up. There are three investigators total. All we do is investigate but there is only one of us on duty at any one time. We do not have a beat car with us. After the fire is out, we work alone until we determine the cause. If it is set, we notify the PD for a beat car to take an arson report. If we have a suspect then we also ask for a detective.
    As far as the evidence goes, we do the photo's, evidence collection, fingerprints, initial interviews and fire scene determination. When it goes to court we are the experts.
    The problem is that the Detectives do not want to work these cases. They are too hard for them, they are out of their element and their clear rate usually goes down. There is no PD officers that have any FD training. So, even if we have a good case to follow, the detectives are refusing to come to the scene. They may look at the report three to four weeks later if they even do that.
    Our vehicles that we are using are 3/4 ton Chevy vans with lights and sirens, we use the van because of the K-9. We are hoping to get 4x4 trucks soon but that is a different issue.
    Our case load is averaging 40 investigated fires a month. These are only the fires that do damage or that the suppression officer thinks "looks funny". Not food on the stove or trash/dumpster/etc... There is no suppression personnel investigators either. But the three of us are 1 CFI and K-9, 1 CFI, CFEI and K-9, and the new guy is CFEI.
    See our problem? We are working alone, investigating felony crimes, unarmed and getting little to no cooperation from the PD.
    We want to be able to carry a sidearm, arrest, detain, interview interrogate, get warrants, complete case files for the prosecutor etc...

  6. #6
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    Default Fd / Pd

    Our unit consists of 12 investigators with police powers. We are a part of the fire department and our investigators come from that department. Once selected, we go through the six month police academy. Our county police is a large department and has their own academy which we attend. ($$ savings) We attend their in-service training and use their district's booking and holding facilities when we make arrests. Since we are law enforcement we have our own NCIC access. We have our own evidence storage facility. If you are already doing O&C, the additional expense is probably not as great as you think. You already probably have vehicles, radios (should add PD channels), evidence collection supplies, office space, computers, etc. You just need PD equipment - firearm(s), ammo, ballistic vest, etc. We don't respond to PD calls unless it is an officer safety issue such as a single car to a domestic with his side partner several posts away. It works well for us. We can see ALL our cases through to the end without any needed outside LE assistance. The only exception is for fatal fires, in which homicide is notified. For me, the up side to this arrangement is that I no longer have to worry about where the "line" is in so far as investigation vs detention and having to go "hands on" with someone. Good luck!

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    Quote Originally Posted by ussmertzdd691 View Post
    And, George, your on the private side aren't you? I was hoping for replies from those in the same boat.
    As for your benefit, only helping the PD, how about us being able to pursue cases on our own that the PD is ignoring. Do you think it is better to let the arsons go un-investigated than to give us the authority to investigate what we are trained for?
    First of all, let me say that I am on the private side now. I was a full-time law enforcement fire investigator for 17 years prior to my retirement and transition into the private sector. You asked for help and I was trying to give it. Any comments I made were not a criticism of your plan, which I think is a good one. They were based on info I did not have. It certainly seems as though you are farther along in your plan than your initial post indicated.

    Secondly, my last comment about the PD OT was a slap at the PD, not you. Arson is a crime. Up until now, it seems that it is a crime that the PD will only work on grudgingly. That is wrong. Commisioning your investigators as LEO is a noble plan that should go along way towards improving the quality of life in your city. You asked for cost benefits. There is no way to measure the cost benefit of the quality of life, which is why I did not mention it. But it is absolutely a benefit.

    Lastly, I realize that your investigators would not be used as supplemental patrols or respond directly to non-fire related incidents. However, when you are a sworn LEO, you will be obligated to act if you come across a crime. And that will inevitably happen. There will be expenses for OT for that stuff. That's a fact of life that I know from first-hand experience. I added it for your consideration of the big picture.

    Let me say again, I think your plan is a good one that will pay many dividends for your FD and your city. I have alot of experience in this area and if I can help you I would be more than happy to do so.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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    Thanks George, this is the problem with text message and posts, sometimes the line of communication gets jumbled up and the true intent of what we are writing gets lost. I appreciate the clarification.
    Imagine my aggravation, that after digging a fire out for 4 hours, having the police tell you they aren't interested in pursuing a case.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ussmertzdd691 View Post
    Thanks George, this is the problem with text message and posts, sometimes the line of communication gets jumbled up and the true intent of what we are writing gets lost. I appreciate the clarification.
    Imagine my aggravation, that after digging a fire out for 4 hours, having the police tell you they aren't interested in pursuing a case.
    No problem.

    I would imagine the aggravation is high. I can tell you for certain that it reflects a lack of leadership in the PD. This attitude probably carries through to other areas that they should be dealing with but don't want to.

    Let me guess. This PD has a highly trained, aggressive SWAT that guys line up for. I'll bet they also have an aggressive street crimes and/or narcotics unit. It's typical poor leadership-do all the aggressive stuff that gets you on COPS, but resist all of the other stuff.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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    Richard: I am a municipal police detective in NYS, 19.5 years as a cop, 14.5 of those as a Detective.. I have just started to get involved in fire investigation in the last two years or so, and am working towards my next level of certification in NYS. I would think the greatest benefit to your Chief would be effective investigations. It sounds like everything gets dropped when it gets beyond the involvement of your unit. If that's the case I don't imagine too many arrests are being made and if so, if they're being prosecuted effectively with the attitude you described of your local PD. I think going to a special officer type of route may be beneficial. Here in NY we have Police Officers and Peace Officers. Peace Officers have powers generally limited to their special function, such as all fire marshals of Nassau County NY, court officers, probation officers, etc. Many carry firearms and have arrest powers, etc. Police Officers have broader powers relating to many area of law enforcement. This may save you some training requirements and if you see something outside of your specific area of enforcement you could merely hold the subject until the cops arrive, as a peace officer here would. Further, if your PD is not interested in physically assisting, you may be able to convince them to allow you to use their systems for criminal histories, etc although that cost and training would be minimal. I would imagine most of your in-service cop type training (firearms, etc) could be conducted through them as well. Good luck.
    "If you ain't got no choice, be brave." Joe Wimberly

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI View Post
    No problem.

    I would imagine the aggravation is high. I can tell you for certain that it reflects a lack of leadership in the PD. This attitude probably carries through to other areas that they should be dealing with but don't want to.

    Let me guess. This PD has a highly trained, aggressive SWAT that guys line up for. I'll bet they also have an aggressive street crimes and/or narcotics unit. It's typical poor leadership-do all the aggressive stuff that gets you on COPS, but resist all of the other stuff.
    Right on the money. Bomb squad, narco task force, swat, and they love it when we have a body, but other than that they are a no show.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ussmertzdd691 View Post
    Right on the money. Bomb squad, narco task force, swat, and they love it when we have a body, but other than that they are a no show.
    Like I said, poor leadership results in a lack of vision.

    Good luck.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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    Default It can be done. For years Arson was a "police" problem. PD said

    its a fire problem...ADA did not want to ruin thier record,,,so it did not get worked. Fast forward. We started sending willing victims to the police academy with in our City. We now have both POST Certified Police Officers who are firemen. I am one. We also have Inspectors who also conduct O&C. We have "follow-up Investigators" that develop the case and carry it through evidence collection, I&I, ADA contact and case review, signing of warrant, serving the warrant if the occasion arises, testifying from prelim to parole hearing if need be. The PD has worked with us....as some of us are FBI FA Instructors, we assist with the recruit classes on the range in exchange for ...whatever. We work along side Homicide if it is a fire death, burglary if the motive is to cover up such a crime and every other division in the PD where arson may be involved. Sure, the FD has to commit. When you are running an arson rate of almost 40%, they will commit. More arrest this year than ever. Juvenile percentage is around 38%. It can be done. Expect flak from the nay sayer. Anytime one moves outside the box, they will catch grief. When you strap on a gun, you are viewed differently by some people....if your committed, so be it. Goodluck

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