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  • Legal / Ethical Guidelines for FF's

    A friend in aneighboring department recently told me a story that during a fire scene investigation they came upon what seems to be the equipment for a grow room in the third florr of the house. He questioned the Chief about it, and the chief said that it was not their responsibility to deal with that. Later the State Police reprimanded both of them for not immediately calling the police. I am curious to see where people feel our responsibility reach. As an EMT New York State does not hold me legally responsible to report evidence of Child abuse, But I don't think I would get much of a nargument against the fact that I have a moral responsibility to report it to the hospital staff that does have alegal responsibility. I am intereted to hear if people feel these guidelines are different for paid vs. volunteers, and what level people feel we have a responsibility to act. I am hoping this will initiate alot of discussion.
    Win

  • #2
    Personally, I feel that to not report something is definitely morally wrong. From a Volunteer FD standpoint, I think you're kickin' yourself in the *** if you don't. We have to work with the police department, because we need their support. If we would not report something, they'd be all over us and it would make a good, but shaky relationship completely awful. Whenever we run into something on a fire scene, all operations stop (unless of course there is a IDLH) and PD is notified so we don't ruin any evidence. This is how we do it and it works for us.

    Stay Safe

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    • #3
      You are obligated to report people who are breaking the law, If the police do or don't act it is up to them. You don't have to make a bid deal of it in front of the public, just take an officer off to the side and tell him.

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      • #4
        Anything to help a druggie is wrong. The Chief should be dismissed, but then maybe it was his supplier.

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        • #5
          This raises some interesting questions. If you see a crime occuring and you dont report it, you are committing a crime. In the case of doing a fire investigation you had better have a consent to search or a warrant. If you dont and you find something like the dopers grow room, it may get thrown out in court because you are acting as an agent of the police when you are investigating a fire scene. There are cases that fire investigators can sieze the property and conduct an investigation and at the first sign of suspicious origin, back out and get a search warrant. The consent to search is much easier. If a fire scene occupant or owner balks at signing it, then you have no choice but get a warrant because once you present that option to him and he refuses you are in a quandry again.

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          • #6
            You don't need the consent or a warrant to do a fire investigation that is conducted during the continuation of the fire department's entry into the scene (However, you are never wrong for getting the consent). There are several court rulings stating that it is in the public's interest to know what started the fire and gives the FD (and investigators) wide latitude to conduct this initial inquiry. Any evidence discovered in plain view is legally obtained. The evidence of the grow room would have been a good find if it was discovered in plain view in an area that the fire investigators hould have been in.

            However, once the evidence of a crime (any crime, including arson) has been discovered, at that point the case has changed from an origin and cause investigation into a criminal investigation and a warrant would be needed. Screw the consent at this point, because the court may not uphold it. You have enough for the warrant.

            FF are public officials. As public officials we absolutely have the moral, ethical and legal responsibility to report criminal activity when we see it. The chief who failed to report this is lucky he didn't end up getting charged.

            BTW, you may not have a legal requirement to report child abuse (are you sure about that?), but you have a moral and ethical responsibility to that child to report it forthwith.
            PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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