Not sure how we missed this case when it happened back in June, but a police officer in Trenton, New Jersey issued a ticket to the driver of a battalion chief’s vehicle for blocking traffic at the scene of an alarm.
According to news reports, on June 8, 2012, TFD companies were dispatched to an alarm at the Broad Street Bank Building. At the scene, Battalion Chief Steve Coltre directed FF Ken Stout to block the road with the chief’s vehicle for scene safety. Police Officer Lawrence Davis then came on the scene and told Chief Coltre to move his vehicle. Coltre refused and Davis cited Stout for obstructing traffic.
The case is in the news because it went to municipal court yesterday. Because it involves Trenton police and Trenton fire, prosecutors agreed to have a judge from another community preside over the trial.
New Jersey.com quoted Stout’s attorney, Andrew Bayer as saying “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.”
Perhaps these statutes would be of interest:
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.
Might Officer Davis be cited for obstructing firefighters in the performance of their duties?