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  • $50 ticket stokes turf battle between cops, firefighters

    $50 ticket stokes turf battle between cops, firefighters
    BY ANDREW STRICKLER | [email protected]
    9:02 PM EDT, August 22, 2007

    A $50 ticket issued to a Suffolk assistant fire chief by a Suffolk County police officer last week has bruised feelings between the two departments and highlighted the sometimes vague rules about who is in charge during emergencies.

    "There is no anger, but I'm not going to say this is a routine thing," said Center Moriches Fire Chief Graham Madigan, who has asked the department's attorney to fight the ticket given to his first assistant chief, William Renzetti.

    Such turf battles are rare in Suffolk County, where firefighters and police officers routinely work side by side to secure the scenes of crimes and accidents, officials on both sides said. But the question of who is in charge when multiple agencies respond to emergencies is a "gray area," even in relatively minor traffic accidents, according to Joseph Williams, Suffolk Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services commissioner.

    Both police and fire officials described the incident that preceded the unusual summons -- an overturned car on the shoulder of Sunrise Highway in Center Moriches on Aug. 16 -- as a serious but routine call.

    Although this conflict appears to have been more of a personal dispute than a jurisdictional one, officials said it developed in part because there is no one rule that establishes command, and officers from different agencies must rely on training and cool heads to establish responsibilities.

    In this instance, as highway patrol police and Center Moriches firefighters arrived to help a person temporarily trapped in the flipped car, an argument broke out between Renzetti and police officers, according to Williams.

    While Renzetti argued for closing both eastbound lanes to provide additional protection, Williams said, police wanted to allow the lane of traffic farthest from the accident to remain open. At some point after the argument, a patrol sergeant wrote Renzetti the ticket for refusing to obey a lawful order.

    Williams said he did not know the exact nature of the conflict or what lawful order Renzetti allegedly refused to obey. "Both of them were trying to do their jobs, and what happened exactly between them, well, I don't know," Williams said. Renzetti was out of town yesterday and not available for comment.

    Patchogue attorney Harold Trabold, who represents the Center Moriches Fire Department, said Renzetti was "definitely pleading not guilty" but that he was still looking into what sparked the disagreement. Trabold said the conflict appeared to have escalated when Sgt. Michael Mahr pursued Renzetti and wrote the ticket after Renzetti drove away from the scene.

    "It's the principle of the chief's responsibilty at the scene that's at issue," Trabold said. Madigan said his department would be willing to pay the ticket "if we thought in any way we were guilty."

    Williams noted that police usually arrive at traffic accidents before firefighters and set up a perimeter, which often includes diverting traffic.

    "Generally, in my experience, I've seen the police department directing traffic in these kinds of incidents," he said.

    But Madigan argued that firefighters often arrive in greater numbers in larger vehicles that can be used to protect responders. "As a rule, firefighters take over traffic control in a traffic accident situation," he said.

    Both Williams and Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer called the confrontation an isolated incident. "We have an outstanding relationship with the fire service and we expect that to continue," Dormer said.
    Have you ever heard of this issuing a ticket to an assistant fire chief for an argument on how to close the roads while trying to clean up an accident? or have you ever been into a argument with one of the fire guys while trying to clean up the scene of an accident??? after all this might a routine call for some of you so I'm just wondering, and how do you get along with firefighters while on the same call??? (in my opinion firefighters are given way to much credit for what they do, but at least they are well like by the public like the saying goes " if you want to be well like don't become a Police officer join the fire department".but I still got respect for firefighters tho)
    Last edited by John2008; 08-24-2007, 09:39 PM.
    "Why you harassing me?"

  • #2
    Originally posted by John2008 View Post
    Have you ever heard of this issuing a ticket to an assistant fire chief for an arguement on how to close the roads while trying to clean up an accident? or have you been into arguements with the fire guys while trying to clean up an accident or so on?? I read this and I found it a little funny.

    I get in arguments with them all the time. They always feel the need to shut down the entire highway for an accident that may only be on the shoulder.


    • #3
      I'm constantly reminding the Fire Cheif of my town who's in charge. On a few occasions I've been dispatched to a DOMV call before, and he's beaten us there by a few minutes and when we do arrive, he tells us it's ok and that there's no need for the Police. Yeah, ok....DOMV, possible battery, I don't think so.

      Sometimes they step out of line. Another example is I was responding to a DOMV battery and the house is on fire (husband lit house on fire) and enroute I'm running lights and siren, coming through a intersection, and the fire chief pulls out in front of me from a intersection. I had to slam on the brakes and swerve to avoid a accident.

      When we arrive on scene, he tells me that I have to yield the right of way to emergency vehicles. I ask him what the hell he though my blue lights and siren were for, and he just insists I was in the wrong.

      It happens. Never written a ticket to them though.
      You have the right to remain silent, but apparently you lack the skill to exercise that right.


      • #4
        Well let me just say that I get along with all of the fire fighters and EMS guys. However there have been instances where they do overstep their authority and try to start acting like cops when they have no business doing it. That is why we have cops and fire fighters and not fire fighters who are also cops. In my experience its pretty rare though. Like I said I have a good working relationship with Fire and Rescue.


        • #5
          Anytime a fire chief wants to take charge of an accident scene is OK by me. He can assign his guys to direct traffic too, because he has no authority to assign me or my guys to do it.


          • #6
            Sounds like the hose draggers up there are on a power trip. I give firefighters and EMS all the respect for what they do but Police usually have the power and authority to do what they think is best.
            Where'd you learn that, Cheech? Drug school?


            • #7
              This is like deja vu in NJ. A few months back, a trooper and fire chief got into a "whose is bigger" contest like this, and the fire chief got locked up. Unbelievable.


              • #8
                I don't argue with my firemen or EMS. They've backed my butt up twice now when I was in a fight and backup wasn't there. And they wash my patrol car for me when I swing by the station.

                I don't agree with your opinion, but I respect its straightforwardness in terms of wrongness.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Smurfette_76 View Post
                  ...And they wash my patrol car for me when I swing by the station.
                  Are you serious???


                  • #10
                    I can't say too much because I am a vollie ff on my off time. The chiefs around here know that if they get crappy with us we can make their lives and the lives of the firefighters hell so they all stay in check most of the time.

                    Oh, and I often get my cruiser washed too


                    • #11
                      The "protocol" I was always taught, is that the F.D. is in charge at the scene of a fire. It may be hard to believe, but in 38 years of law enforcment, I never had a problem with Fire or EMS personnel. That includes volunteer firefighters. Quite the contrary, I've had these personnel make my job much easier, on more than one occassion. I suppose we all need to keep in mind, that at the scene of an accident, fire, or other emergency, we are all there to serve and assist the public. I think that's all the public is really concerned about.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by deputyryan View Post
                        Are you serious???
                        uh huh. It helps being female, darlin'

                        I don't agree with your opinion, but I respect its straightforwardness in terms of wrongness.


                        • #13
                          We get to a scene, we have different goals, and it's easy to forget the other's concerns. I have never had it be a problem that a few words of polite discussion and explanation weren't able to resolve quickly.

                          Never been a serious problem, but I have seen them start to shut down all traffic for a simple wreck which can safely be handled for the safety of all by simply shutting down the one lane, or even no lanes in some cases ... and keeping remaining traffic slow. Some fire and rescue types are simply uncomfortable of traffic tippy toeing by in a single file 12 feet away at 25 mph, they forget to consider that backing it up 7-12 miles in two lanes is simply risking many secondary collisions. Others, like "old timers" deal with it easier. Sometimes, yeah .... it all has to come to a halt but that's more rare. I can also recall the days when the only traffic control one had was any available deputies and troopers and often that was near zilch, now the fire police respond with the fire and rescue and rarely do we have a problem with control.

                          Originally posted by Smurfette_76 View Post
                          I don't argue with my firemen or EMS. They've backed my butt up twice now when I was in a fight and backup wasn't there. And they wash my patrol car for me when I swing by the station.
                          I always knew the Good Lord Above gave the fairer sex "a swing" for a reason.

                          Last edited by t150vsuptpr; 08-25-2007, 05:16 PM.
                          "That's right man, we've got mills here that'll blow that heap of your's right off the road."

                          "Beautiful Daughter of the Stars."(it's my home now)

                          >>>>> A Time for Choosing <<<<<

                          Retired @ 31yr 2mo as of 0000 hrs. 01-01-10. Yeah, all in all, it was good.


                          • #14
                            I've never had a problem with them, I know others that have, but me personally, never.
                            "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." - Orwell


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Pickle
                              One our guys got tboned by a DUI. The vehcile ended up on an embankment and was very close to rolling. We show up and the FD shows up. They refuse to get to the officer out of the car because it is too dangerous. Our guys were furious. They took an SUV and drove it up the enbankment to stabilize the vehicle, then pulled the officers out and handed them off to the FD.
                              Most FD's are great but this incident ****ed a lot of us off.
                              Most of the FD people I've dealt with were great too, but don't forget sometimes we (LE) put them in bad spots. A few years ago, a fellow sergeant requested paramedics at 2:30 AM to the scene of a man down. When I spoke with supervisor later, he admitted the victim, "was the worst decomp" he'd ever seen. I asked why paramedics were called even though they were sleeping and obviously couldn't do anything to revive a very dead man. The sergeant said he always called paramedics to every death scene, rather than pronounce death himself. Needless to say, FD personnel started finding numerous intoxicated persons for us to deal with immediately after that incident and for the next few weeks.
                              "I'm not fluent in the language of violence, but I know enough to get around in places where it's spoken."


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