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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 [email protected].

Copyright © 2004 Detroit Free Press Inc.

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IMO this is just another way for LE to secure more jobs at the expense of the fire service. :evil: :evil:
 

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I disagree. Though this may be a 'grey area', they serve a law enforcement function and should be under the auspices of the police department. FD's extinguish fires. PD's investigate criminal acts. Period.

'nuff said.
 

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Speaking as a fire investigator and from actual experience I believe that the best method to conducting fire investigations is the team concept........meaning a police detective and a firefighter (fire investigator) working together. I also believe that both investigators should be crossed-trained. Investigators never know if the witness or victim they are interviewing at zero dark thirty is actually the suspect.

Investigators that are crossed trained are better able to protect themselves and are more credible witnesses on the stand to testify to fire behavior and how they determined the origin and cause. It should be noted that most fire related crimes are intertwined with other crimes such as homicide (crime concealment), malicious destruction, fraud, and spite/revenge fires just to name a few.

The bottom line is we should all work together. It does not matter who applies the hand cuffs as long as we obtain a conviction at the end of the day. I personally don't make it a habit of getting involved in other crimes......I prefer to call things in on the radio and send a marked unit. I only preform LE functions as it relates to my investigation.
 

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Well said arson.
For my college internship( Fire protection and safety) I interned with the Lynn Fire departments Arson sqaud. They work for the fire department but are also full fledged Essex county deputys. They were line firefighters till they went into arson and are two of the crustiest jakes I ever had the pleasure of working with. During a few investigations I learned so much because the fact is they knew how the fire behaved from haveing been firefighters,not from reading a book. When they were explaining it to me, my head was spinning and my pen raceing. No offense but I dont think a police officer would understand many of the quirks of fire without haveing been in several.
Lynn has a good system that works well and I highly respect thier agency, they are very good at what they do.
 

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Thanks for your reply. Yes you are correct Lynn FIU has a great reputation & system. They utilize the team concept approach and work with their Police counterparts & the MSP as well. My unit works in a similiar fashion and I believe we are also well respected. As I said before I believe in the team concept and if cross trained a Police Detective and Firefighter (Fire Investigator) solve cases & make great witnesses on the stand.
 

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Very interesting...............................

The investigators at the State Fire Marshal's Office are Troopers. At that level it seems to be working. The Lynn Squad is another example of something that works well on a local level.
:wink:
As far as Detroit, well, it's probably a statutory question, more than a practical one. They could just be made specials/deputies/constables and stay assigned with the FD, payed out of the fire budget (like now), but have some authority from the PD.

Look........ there are so many different jobs with varying degrees of L.E. powers derived from a governmental source that this issue will arise from time to time. Look at Alcohol Board Investigators for one example.
8)
 

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You touched on some good points! I frequently work cases with MSP Troopers assigned to the Fire Marshal's Office, but unfortunately because of the amount of fire related investigations in my community they would not be able to supply an investigator for every incident. There are communities in the Commonwealth that completely rely on them and although they don't mind same I know they enjoy working with people who can assist in the investigation from collecting evidence to writing search warrants if needed.
Another issue is that the State Fire Marshal has sent notices to all fire chiefs that the budget is tight and only in certain circumstance will investigators be dispatched after hours, but as your probably aware waiting until the next day could cost you witnesses or suspects that is why our fire investigators are sworn and we also work with a Police Detective from our community when their case load permits. I have been told that the Fire Marshal's Office does not have its own budget like the DA's Office has for MSP Troopers assigned for their investigations.

It is important to note that many years ago the fire marshal's office consisted of the rank of Fire Lieutenants or above supplied from various fire departments to conduct fire investigations on behalf of the FMO's. I am not sure why or at what point Troopers assumed this responsibility. I do not have a problem working cases with them.....As I stated earlier I am interested only in fire related crimes and not interested in anything else.
 
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