EMTs and fire fighters risk their lives every day to save lives and property.
Now some states are proposing legislation that would allow EMTs to bear arms. In urban metro areas like Washington, DC, fire fighters are being asked to expand their duties by serving as “crime fighters” this summer.
Municipalities in Michigan are eager to combine fire and police into single Public Safety Officer (PSO) departments – giving fire fighters and paramedics guns and police officers hoses. City leaders maintain that cross-training fire fighters and police will help cut costs. Just recently, the Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union conducted a successful campaign to convince voters in Harper Woods Jackson to vote no on PSOs.
In Ohio, legislation has been proposed that would allow emergency medical technicians to carry guns when accompanying SWAT teams on calls. Representative Courtney Combs, the sponsor of House Bill 288, says EMTs wouldn’t be required to carry a gun under the legislation. The decision would be left to EMTs and the SWAT teams they work with to decide. House Bill 288 would treat emergency medical personnel like police, providing them immunity from civil suits in connection with their use of guns when working with the SWAT teams.
These issues are creating heated debate as to what role fire fighters and emergency medical personnel should play in their communities.
The Ohio legislation comes one week after reports that fire fighters in Washington, DC are being dispatched late at night on patrol in high crime neighborhoods. Earlier this week, at least three people were injured in shootings that occurred within blocks of where fire fighters have been stationed to deter crime in the Nation’s Capital.
Washington, DC Local 36 says the incident proves that crime should be left up to police.
One IAFF Facebook fan wrote this:
“What idiot decided to do this? Fire fighters and fire trucks as crime suppression? They are not trained for this! What are they supposed to do if gunfire erupts? Throw an ax at em? Dangerous and not their job!
The IAFF has developed a "Fire and Police Consolidation: An Ineffective Use of Resources" manual to give IAFF affiliates general information on the dangers of combining fire and police duties and offer guidance to help prevent it, including a list of top 20 questions to ask city and county managers, mayors and councilors who may be proposing a PSO or similar system.