New Hampshire Fire Officials Criticize Police For Impersonating Firefighters

March 6, 2009
Firefighters are criticizing Newport police after they disguised themselves as firefighters to take a man into custody.


Firefighters are criticizing Newport police after they disguised themselves as firefighters to take a man into custody who allegedly threatened an officer with a gun.

Newport police said Matthew Miller pointed a shotgun at an officer responding to his apartment on a noise complaint Wednesday night. With no backup, the officer left, but hours later, police returned. Dressed as firefighters, they were able to take Miller into custody without incident.

"This was the best possible scenario," said Police Chief David Hoyt. "It worked, and it was very quick. It was not harmful to anybody."

Hoyt said it stood behind the tactics his department used. Police spoke to the Newport fire chief, who allowed them to borrow a fire truck and uniforms.

The chiefs from both departments went to Miller's building, and the officers, dressed as firefighters, went to Miller's door. They told him there was a carbon monoxide issue and arrested him as he came out.

"If we as police didn't handle it correctly, it was going to be disastrous for innocent people," Hoyt said.

Nobody in the building was evacuated, and no alarms were set off. But the tactics drew a strong response from other firefighters.

"We need to have the trust of the public when we respond," said David Lang of the Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire.

The union called the tactics dangerous.

"If we allow others to co-opt our image, trade on our good name, no matter the circumstances, we'd create a breach of trust with the public that will be impossible for us to repair," Lang said.

Hoyt said he never intended to break the public's trust.

"It's not to degrade those professions, to make those professions unsafe in any way," he said. "It's to accomplish our mission safely without causing harm to anybody."

Newport Fire Chief Wayne Conroy said a lot of thought went into the plan, and his help let police make the arrest safely in 90 seconds.

"To be able to say that firefighters aren't trusted is definitely not the case of why I did this," Conroy said.

Lang said he and other firefighters realize that police officers also face dangers in the job, but he called on other police and fire leaders to not condone the impersonation of firefighters.

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  • March 5, 2009: Police Dress As Firefighters To Arrest Newport Man

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