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  1. #1
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    Default Firefighter or Police Officer?

    What do you think about this?


    Detroit's arson squad could move from fire to police department
    BY BEN SCHMITT
    FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

    July 13, 2004



    Twenty-four members of the Detroit Fire Arson Squad may be soon looking for new jobs.

    The Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards has ruled that arson investigators, who have police powers and go through the police academy, can no longer work for the fire department, which is not considereda law-enforcement agency. The commission gave the fire department until Sept. 15 to come up with a solution.

    Communications coordinatorDave Kingsaid the commission, a state agency, has been wrestling with theissue for six years, and the arson unit has been aware of the problem. The ruling involved other agencies throughout the state that were offering law enforcement services but lacked statutory authority, including public schools and private colleges.

    "We bent over backwards to notify agencies," King said. "We don't question the need for the agency or legitimacy of what they're doing, but we have to scrutinize who is a recognized law enforcement officer in Michigan pursuant to legislation we're charged with administering."

    King said it's possible that investigators will go to work for the police department, which will then investigate Detroit's suspicious fires.

    "Our problem is that we have legislation that requires that police officers be employed by law enforcement agencies," he said. "These agencies didn't meet the legal definition of a law enforcement agency."

    Dan McNamara, president of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association, said the union doesn't want to lose 24 positions to the police department.

    "We want our firefighters to stay firefighters," he said. "Everybody is trying to work it out to make arson stay the way it is. However it works out, we want to make sure the collective bargaining rights aren't changed in any way, shape or form."

    Brenda Braceful, deputy corporation counsel for the city, said negotiations are continuing.

    Sandy Lewis, a Lansing lobbyist representing the firefighters union, said she thinks "it's a matter of putting all the parties together and working something out."



    Contact BEN SCHMITT at 313-223-4296 or schmitt@freepress.com.

    Copyright © 2004 Detroit Free Press Inc.


  2. #2
    Fire Chaplain IACOJRev's Avatar
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    Default Re: Firefighter or Police Officer?

    Originally posted by FB1138
    "Our problem is that we have legislation that requires that police officers be employed by law enforcement agencies," he said. "These agencies didn't meet the legal definition of a law enforcement agency."
    Is anyone else thinking what I'm thinking
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  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber E229Lt's Avatar
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    Fire Department Arson Investigators could continue to determine cause and origin, once found suspicious it could be turned over to "Law Enforcement".

    Where are ya George?

    As for my union brothers in Detroit, if you issue summonses for building violations, parking on hydrants, etc... that is "Law Enforcement", perhaps you should stop.
    Last edited by E229Lt; 07-13-2004 at 11:56 AM.

  4. #4
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    Bah, if they really cared about their brothers, they could make them auxillary members of the Detroit PD or the County SO, so that they could keep their jobs..

  5. #5
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    Or they could just change the legislation. . .
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    I'm with ya Rev.

    I'm sure the fact that this commission ia a part of the Michigan State Police has nothing to do with their interpretation of the law. IMHO, this is nothing more than another attempt by a law enforcement agency to provide job security for law enforcement at the expense of the fire service. They keep doing it because they get away with it every time. I would be on the phone with some state legislators and voice my concerns.

    As for the question of where arson investigators should be located, I've seen it work and fail a number of different ways: within the FD, within the PD and jointly. If the current system is working, I wouldn't mess with it. If it is not working, then there may be legitimate cause for change.

    I just don't like it when law enforcement is calling the shots for the FD.

  7. #7
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    This spring I interned with the Lynn Fire departments arson team. They work for the fire dept. but are full fledged deputy sheriffs with full Ch. 90 powers.
    I dont suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.

  8. #8
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    Originally posted by ullrichk
    Or they could just change the legislation. . .
    Such as New Jersey did in Title 13. The statute allows us to determine cause and origin...in cooperation with law enforcement. LE then handles the criminal applications. NJFFS would turn the scene over to my colleague George and his agencies....who have much broader criminal statutes to work with.

    13:9-15. Enforcement of laws and extinguishment of fires; summoning assistance
    Firewardens shall be trained law enforcement officers and shall enforce the laws of this State for the protection of forests from wildfire.

    13:9-44.4. Authority to make, conduct or participate in investigation of cause or responsibility for wildfire; cooperation
    The Department of Environmental Protection is authorized to make, conduct or participate in any investigation or survey designed to establish the cause of and responsibility for a particular wildfire and to cooperate with any law enforcement officers of this State with respect to violations of this act.
    ****************************** ****

    The legislation in Michigan could very well be revised to reflect the status of firefighters in Arson Units. As E229LT pointed out...they could turn it over to LE criminal investigators, after determining suspicious origin. Why shouldn't they participate in the investigations...they have a plethora of experience?

    Hey REV...what're you thinking?

    E229Lt....does FDNY investigate arson?

    As I recall, the Bergen County Arson Unit has both fire and law enforcement officers on it's arson task force. Is that accurate George?
    I don't know about Morris County. How do they work?
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  9. #9
    Fire Chaplain IACOJRev's Avatar
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    If I remember correctly, the procedure is something like this: A FF must have so many years of service in before they can request a spot in the Arson Squad. They attend the DPD acdy, and become certified police officers, spending 6 months to a year with the PD before coming back to the FD.

    The issue isn't that they aren't state certified officers, the issue is that they are getting paid by the FD not the PD, therefore are not working for a Law Enforcement Agency.

    And this doesn't just affect FDs, it also would put an end to University Campus Police, Hospital Security/Police, and other similar departments that provide police/security coverage.
    Last edited by IACOJRev; 07-13-2004 at 12:50 PM.
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    MembersZone Subscriber Diane E's Avatar
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    In Suffolk County, the Arson Squad falls under the Police Department, therefore one must pass the police civil service test and score well enough to go through the hiring process to be a police officer. After they're a PO a while, they can get into the arson squad, there's probably a detectives test they need to take because I believe they're all at detective status. You don't just get asked to become a part of it. However, Fire Marshal's are under villages, townships, towns, the County, and whoever else hires off that civil service list.
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    Bottom line...cops fight crime and FF fight fires. Stay out of the law enforcement business if you don't want cops going into burning buildings!

  12. #12
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    GOT YA!

    Seriously, there are a myriad of remedies to this problem. I do not claim to know or understand the law that MI operates under. But I think you would all agree that requiring law enforcement agencies to meet certain standards and to have checks and balances in the system is a good thing.

    In NJ, there is special legislation that allows a FD to have a FULL-TIME fire investigation unit with police powers. (Full time is a key distinction. These m embers can have no other responsibilities other than fire investigaiton). Those unit members must meet all the minimum standards for law enforcement officers. The units operate under the supervision and permission of the County Prosecutor's Office. There are about 8 FD's who operate this way.

    They could also "loan" those members to the PD as a sort of task force. That way they do not lose the positions, they still get the paycheck from the FD, but they can be overseen by the PD and still do their old job.

    In Bergen County, they use a task force consisting of FF and PD. However, I do not believe that the FD members have police powers. The BC Prosecutor's Office and the local PD comes in when a crime is discovered.

    In Morris County, all the county fire investigators were Dets. in the Pros. Off. and had full police powers. We utilized assistance from trained members of FD's and PD's, but we had no formal task force.

    This problem is easily overcome, if the FD, PD and city really want to solve it.

  13. #13
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    Question no disrespect intended..

    ...but doesn't that seem a little narrow minded George? It's not like these guys are trying to fight the drug war or bring down organized crime. Arson investigation is a specific field, if you want guys who know fire...well, they come from the FD. Why do they have to leave the FD just to put on a different shield to satisfy this legislation? It doesn't make sense to me, if it isn't broken...why fix it? -46

    edit- sorry George, I caught ya between posts.

  14. #14
    MembersZone Subscriber Diane E's Avatar
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    Hmmm....Last time I checked, arson was a crime.
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    So is parking in front of a Fire Hydrant!
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  16. #16
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    E229Lt....does FDNY investigate arson?
    Yes. Fire Marshalls are assigned to the FDNY Bureau of Fire Investigation.

    Hmmm....Last time I checked, arson was a crime.
    Having your house burn down is not a crime. Burning your house down is a crime. Until it is determined which one occured the investigation is not necessarily "Law Inforcement" it is a fact finding mission. As I stated earlier, cause and origin.

    Think of it this way, with fire department personnel finding the cause and origin, law inforcement is free to fight crime. Once the investigation points to arson it can be jointly investigated or handed over completely.

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    Is it possible to take a cop and dedicate him to determining cause and origin for basicly his entire career? It should be obvious that rotating officers as many LE agencies do, would be detrimental to enforcement of building/fire codes and the investigation of arson.

    Most officers have little to NO background in fire department operations, fire cause, behavior etc. I know many cops who chose that profession over FF because either a fear of fire/heights, lack or interest, or something along those lines. Most places I know take FFs who have at least some experience & basic knowledge and then build on that knowledge with further schooling.

    I don't see any problem with joint operations, the Fire Marshalls should be the primary agency of enforcement for the fire codes and ordnaces.

    In my dept I as well as all other FFs are Peace officers. We perform Builiding inspections, We inspect for violations to the fire/building codes of NYC. I can write people for illegal parking in front of the firehouse, in front of hydrants and failure to comply with findings of a previous inspection where violations where found.

    Should we stop enforcement of these laws? Should I not issues VOs and C-Summones for failure to comply with orders of the Fire Commisioner? I agree with Lt229, if they are writing people and doing BI, I would stop until the legislation is changed or they let the PD take over.

    Would the PD really care or enforce these codes, do they really understand the seriousness of a blocked exit or fire escape in disrepair. If they've never been a fireman I don't know how they could possibly understand the context of these laws.

    Besides George cops will continue to go into burining buildings regardless if we do so called Law enforcement so they can get their two days off for detox.

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  18. #18
    MembersZone Subscriber Diane E's Avatar
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    Gee, can't see how parking a fire engine in front of a hydrant and hooking it up will garnish a problem from the PO unless they parked there first.

    ***

    I guess it depends on the jurisdiction -- as volunteers, we clean up and leave, we don't hang around and try to determine what the cause and origin is/was. For the handful of fires we get in a year, we shouldn't make that determination. If we see something that we think is suspicious during the course of the fire, then we report it to the proper authority.

    And fighting arson is fighting a crime. Just look at the statistics. The handful of Arson Squad members in Suff. Cty. investigate fires. They aren't taken away from any other job of fighting other "crimes".

    Perhaps the issue here is the gray area between arson investigation and fire investigation. My alumnus changed it's BS degree title from Arson Investigation to Fire Investigation because of the gray area. Arson was too specific, whereas fire covers arson.
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  19. #19
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    First off I'll begin by saying that the DPD has wanted arson investigation for years now. At the present time there is a police/fire arson unit. The total number of police officers in this unit is around 5-6 and they work out of Police headquarters. The DFD investigators work out of Fire Headquarters. The Fire Department arson section has been within the fire department for over 60 years.

    Now a little history.

    In Detroit, in order to become an arson investigator you must do the following.
    1. Must have a minimum of 7 years in the Firefighting Division to apply.
    2. Take the arson examination given by the Fire Department and pass the exam with a minimum score of 75%.
    3. You must also pass the oral interview and another background check.
    4. If you pass both, you are then put on the list in order of seniority and invited to the arson unit when an opening comes up.
    5. Usually after about 2 months (depends on police academy classes) with the arson investigators, you are sent through the entire police academy program. You are held to the same standards as police trainees. The academy lasts 20 weeks (not positive about the length now).
    6. Upon completion of the police academy and your certification you then join the arson unit as a Lieutenant and are assigned to a veteran investigator and given your department issued side arm.

    Arson investigators here do only one thing and that is arson investigation. If they find that an arson has been committed they continue their investigation, request search warrants and do have arrest powers and use them.
    If the arson is found to be a homicide, then the DPD homicide section joins the investigation. If it's found to be insurance fraud, the fraud division of the DPD then joins in. In court it's usually the arson investigators that give the majority of testimony as to the facts related to the findings of the investigation.
    Arson investigators here are very, very busy and very good at what they do. They only get around to actually investigating about 45-60% of the total arsons committed in the city. They usually concentrate on the most serious arson crimes. The city has always been short on arson investigators and even giving it to the DPD will not eliminate that problem.

    The problem is that the state is saying you must be a member of and paid by the DPD in order to request search warrants, have arrest powers and carry a department issued side arm.
    No one will lose their jobs because of this. In actuality they will probably have to do one of three things.
    1. Retire (around 8-9 as of this date could retire)
    2, They could be taken into the DPD because here we have parity and the pension system is the same entity. If you served 15 years with DFD then went to the DPD for 10 years, you still qualify for a regular 25 year pension.
    3. They could chose to return to firefighting or take an exam to go to another division i.e. Training, Fire Prevention and Inspection (Fire Marshals Division which arson falls under too) or Community Relations. All of which are at minimum, Lieutenant positions. Whatever they chose they will lose seniority for the time spent outside of firefighting.

    The Fire Prevention and Inspection Section is the one that does all inspections and writes code violations. They also have the authourity to write tickets for those violations if neccessary. Here these two things are seperate.
    My honest opinion is that I would prefer to see the DFD keep the Arson Division but I really don't see that happening because the DPD is fighting hard to take this over.
    At the present time there are 23 members in the unit. 1 Chief of Arson, 3 Captains and 19 Lieutenants.
    Last edited by FireLt1951; 07-14-2004 at 09:28 AM.

  20. #20
    MembersZone Subscriber E229Lt's Avatar
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    Diane, ya gotta help me out here because I'm not sure if you are on one side or the other.

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