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Case of Trenton, NJ firefighter ticketed after blocking scene for safety scheduled for trial. One of the really stupid things you’ll read this morning.

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Before anyone says anything I know it is ill advised and may be illegal for a police chief to tell a police officer to drop a ticket that the cop has written. But I find it hard to believe that there is such a lack of adult supervision in Trenton, New Jersey that a dispute between on-duty police and firefighters couldn’t be solved before more taxpayer money was wasted.

The article written by The Times’ Alex Zdan this morning should make your head spin and some of you may scream at your computer when you learn things in Trenton are so dysfunctional that the case of two tickets written by police officer Mike Davis to Firefighter Ken Stout at an emergency scene on June 8 may actually be going to trial.

According to Zdan’s article, firefighters responded to East State Street for an alarm at a high-rise apartment building:

With engines and ladders parked on the two-lane downtown street, Battalion Chief Steve Coltre told his driver Firefighter Ken Stout to place the chief’s marked SUV across the road.

“Stout was directed to block the scene for safety,” (Firefighters’ union lawyer Andrew) Bayer said.

Police Officer Lawrence “Mike” Davis then came on the scene and told Coltre to move his vehicle. Coltre refused, and a “discussion” occurred, Bayer said.

“There’s a statute that says a fire chief controls a fire scene as a matter of law, and so police officers can’t issue a ticket to a fire chief at a fire scene,” Bayer said. “Which is what happened here.”

By going to trial this has the potential for the taxpayers footing the bill for court pay for Davis, overtime for two firefighters and the cost of a judge coming in from another jurisdiction. They’ve already paid for an outside municipal prosecutor who failed to even acknowledge the stupidity of all of this to reporter Zdan. That’s a waste of money right there, if you ask me. I would think an outsider might at least the guts to tell everyone to grow up and deal with this.

Trenton’s fire director and police director had been in touch about this situation when it occurred but aren’t telling the reporter what they spoke about.

Stout faces a potential fine of $225 for obstructing traffic and not displaying his permit.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • firefighter

    In my county, one county board is suing another county board.

    One of these county boards was told by their attorney the other board had legal jurisdiction and that attorney was removed from office.

    Taxpayer funding is being wasted in my county over this “power struggle”, too.

  • Bullets

    Does the fire department have the legal authority to close a public street? I was under the impression that only law enforcement had that power

    • CHAOS

      Laws covering authority in emergency situations vary from state to state, but, laws mandating common sense have yet to be enacted anywhere.
      I’ve had heated discussions with LEOs about road closures, too, including when some of the people we’re protecting by closing the road are the LEOs investigating an MVA. My understanding has always been that if a lowly unarmed fire officer is legally in control of an incident that includes a piece of roadway, well, then, he’s got that, too. I’ve yet to see a one block section of 2 lane city street that is soooo freaking important that traffic has to be routed in amongst the fire apparatus to preserve civilization.
      Again, common sense isn’t as common as you might expect.

    • mark

      In some (many?) states, if the FD is called to an incident, they are in charge. It is definitely the case in MI. We determine road closures for fire, accidents or whatever we are called on.

      Also, we are not required to have our driver’s license on us when working. We have to produce it eventually if asked, but not immediately.

      Cop is just another power-tripping moron.

      Judge is an idiot for not throwing it out and ripping the cop a new one.

    • chief Cox

      Incident commanders on a fire scene have the authority to close lanes of traffic to establish a safety corridor for the emergency responders to work in. That includes closing down streets. Law enforcement has no authority on scene until the IC declares the incident is under control. I had this problem in Woodbridge township where we had to change our terminology to ( the fire is knocked down ) so the local LEO’s couldn’t take over command. I also followed a Rockaway township case involving the state police on route 80. In that case the trooper got exiled to Trenton which was only a bit worse than Netcong barracks.

  • Former Chief

    Google the term “dysfunctional government” and the Trenton City seal will appear. And this is the State Capital of New Jersey, go figure. If you look at current events in Trenton, things are not good, including the Mayor being under investigation by the FBI and the Mayor’s half brother being arrested for corruption. As far as this incident is concerned, if I remember correctly, Broad St. in this area is a relatively narrow two lane, one way street with parking on both sides. With a high rise response, it would have been prudent to close the short city block in question. It’s not difficult to get around the block. To answer Bullets question above, NJ State statute designates the Fire Chief or his/her designee as being “in charge” at a fire or incident where there is a threat of fire. The Chief can take whatever actions he/she deems necessary to provide for public safety. Some police officers who think they have “god like” powers are sometimes upset by this. Apologizing in advance to those in law enforcement who actually “play nice”, this is probably another cop who couldn’t pass the Firefighter test.

  • Anonymous

    AS a memeber of a Volunteer Fire Department, we have closed many roads so that we could do a rescue safely. Never once have we had a police officer tell us to open the road until we had completed the rescue

  • Mr618

    Up here in Maine — for the most part — the fire and police worlds co-exist peacefully. Just yesterday, we had one of those “magic” (driverless) cars run into a tree. A MarinePatrol Officer and a Deputy both bent over backwards to help us.

    (Maybe the box of donuts had something to do with it…)

  • http://www.facebook.com/TheTruckGoes Capt 45-2

    In New Jersey in areas patrolled by the New Jersey State Police they are IC’s and call the shots no discussion, it does not matter if it is a vehicle fire, motor vehicle crash, or medical call. Some troopers are good some not so good not unlike any other field.

  • RJ(in florida)

    wow another pissing contest between the badges. i allways wondered what happened with the cops in the other ones espically the oklahoma trooper choking the medic and the captain who got busted.

    and in the end all the winning party gets is a nanny-nanny-boo-boo

  • D Schaefer

    Talking about a waste of taxpayr money ,well this is a good one.The cop needs to back to school and learn a few things.

  • Fire3Man

    Bottom line: Scene Safety. I just do not understand why law enforcement is hell bent on opening a roadway while an emergency is in progress. How many countless video’s and news reports do we see about law enforcement officers getting wiped out while on scene of traffic stops, accidents and assisting motorists? Do they not think it can happen to Fire and EMS also? A life or two is worth making people wait in traffic!

  • trenton guy

    40A:14-54. Firemen in the performance of their duties to have powers of police officers

    The members and officers of the paid or part-paid fire department and force of a municipality shall have the powers and authority of police officers within the municipality, to be exercised while going to, attending and returning from a fire.

    40A:14-54.1. Authority at scene of fire of fire official in charge of supervision or direction of operations

    The chief or other superior officer of any municipal paid or part-paid fire department or volunteer fire company, or a State fire warden, who is charged with the duty of supervising or directing operations at the scene of any fire shall be the sole authority within fire lines established by said fire chief or other superior fire officer, or State fire warden, at the scene of such fire with respect to all firefighting operations relating to the protection of lives and property endangered by such fire, and within said fire lines such authority shall supersede that of any municipal police authority. The authority hereby invested in the chief or other superior officer, or State fire warden, shall terminate at such time as he shall declare the fire out. Nothing in this act shall affect the powers possessed by the Governor under the various emergency acts nor the powers possessed by any State agency to protect the public health, welfare and safety.

    The chief only blocked the road directly infront of the residental high rise that had the alarm. He blocked traffic at the A D corner. The Police officer asked him to move and he explained why he need to remain. The officer then aftering being told NO( the car wasnt moving for FF safety) he lost his mind, ordered the chief out of the car and started harrassing the chiefs Aid. Then proceeded to scream at the top of his lungs and I quote” if the passenger has an additude then the driver gets tickets” OK bad day for the officer but why wouldnt you just dissmiss the tickets. the chief didnt charge him with disrupting the scene(well with in his right)Just goes to show you the ego on the cop.

    • Former Chief

      Thanks for the info Trenton Guy. The judge could have / should have dismissed the tickets and explained the law to the police officer. I’m guessing the judge doesn’t know the law either. With whats going on in your City, all I can say is, hang in there.

  • ukfbbuff

    I agree with Trenton, Fire Union President;

    “A waste of taxpayers money”

    Also, in California, Law Enforcement takes total scene control, while do everything else.
    Makes it easier to coordinate things, as LE takes care of any interference in what we’re doing;
    Fire, EMS, Haz Mat.
    Especially on a freeway.

  • EchoFD

    Connecticut Sec. 7-313e. Authority of fire officer during emergency. Notwithstanding any provision in the general statutes or a municipal ordinance to the contrary, the fire chief of the municipality, or any member serving in the capacity of fire officer-in-charge, shall, when any fire department or company is responding to or operating at a fire, service call, or other emergency, within such municipality, have the authority to: (a) Control and direct emergency activities at such scene; (b) order any person to leave any building or place in the vicinity of such fire for the purpose of protecting such person from injury; (c) blockade any public highway, street, or private right-of-way temporarily while at such scene; (d) at any time of the day or night, enter any building, including a private dwelling, or upon any premises where a fire is in progress or near the scene of any fire, or where there is reasonable cause to believe a fire is in progress, for the purpose of extinguishing the fire or preventing its spread; (e) inspect for the purposes of preventing fires and preplanning the control of fire all buildings, structures or other places in their fire district, except the interior of private dwellings, where any combustible material, including but not limited to waste paper, rags, shavings, waste, leather, rubber, crates, boxes, barrels or rubbish, that is or may become dangerous as a fire menace to such buildings, structures or other places has been allowed to accumulate or where such chief or his designated representative has reason to believe that such material has accumulated or is liable to be accumulated; (f) order disengagement or discouplement of any convoy, caravan or train of vehicles, craft or railway cars for the purpose of extinguishing a fire or preventing its spread; and (g) take command of any industrial fire brigade or fire chief when such fire company or department has been called to such industry…..this is what Connecticuts general statues state