Ohio Fire Investigators Right to Protection
Ohio Fire Investigators Right to Protection
Why this petition matters
The reason for this petition is in regard to a burgeoning idea that has been openly discussed between many Ohioans who are in the unique employment of fire investigation at their local fire department.
Specifically, our duties as fire investigators are asymmetrical in that we traverse a multitude of environments including the scene where fires originate as well as off site to interview witnesses, neighbors, reporting parties, and sometimes suspects who may have committed arson, a felony in Ohio. Fire Investigators are not police officers but our activities parallel criminal investigators and in most Ohio jurisdictions, fire investigators are the only public safety personnel examining scenes of crimes involving fire due to our specialized training. Many times, these actions as public servants place us in direct proximity to suspects who may have committed crimes. Often, we are unaware during our investigations if someone is a victim or a suspect until we find evidence leading us to that conclusion. Fire Investigators even assist police in the arrest of arson suspects and help County Prosecutors with their court cases. However, we do this without the ability to defend ourselves should we be confronted by an arson suspect on or near the scene of the crime in which we are investigating as public servants.
In 2018, Ohio's 132nd General Assembly voted in the affirmative for HB79 (92-2 in the House and 31-0 in the Senate) which authorized firefighters, when acting in the capacity as paramedics assigned to SWAT teams, to protect themselves with firearms when performing SWAT functions. The final version of the law also authorized coroners investigators to carry firearms for defensive purposes in the performance of their public duties. The parallel duties between fire and coroner investigators cannot be overstated.
We believe that a key, yet simple provision, is missing from that legislation, one that would extend the same rights and protections that SWAT medics and coroners investigators have to municipal fire investigators while performing their public safety duties.
While SWAT medics are authorized to carry firearms in the performance of SWAT duties, they are participating in an activity that places police officers and sheriff's deputies within extremely close proximity to their persons; however, a majority of the time fire investigators are alone or with a single partner (another fire investigator) and without law enforcement present. Currently, fire investigators at the local level are not armed despite most fire investigators having CCW permits and/or being trained to OPOTA standards for firearms proficiency.
Additionally, this petition is about updating existing laws to protect fire investigators and the public. There is a provision in the Ohio Revised Code, ORC 737.27, that overarchingly and broadly outlines the duties of a fire investigator and that has been interpreted as a legal basis for fire investigators to carry fire arms. However, is is not explicit like the "SWAT Medic bill" which clearly affirms the right to carry for defensive purposes and outlines immunities and training requirements. ORC 737.27 does not address training nor immunities as it was enacted in 1953 and needs to be updated to reflect the duties, training, and realities that are faced by fire investigators in Ohio.
In researching HB79 (2018), John Gilchrist of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) wrote in support of the SWAT medic bill and recognized that firefighters are not law enforcement but need the ability to protect themselves when in the performance of their role as a SWAT medic. I believe that Mr. Gilchrist and the OACP would agree that fire investigators, when employed by a municipality and while performing duties as a fire investigator, should be provided the same legal right and immunities as HB79 granted to SWAT medics and coroners investigators to carry firearms for self defense.
I hope that you would be in agreement with our arguments as presented above. It is the intent to amend the current Ohio Revised Code with adding the verbiage "fire investigator" alongside SWAT medics and coroners/medical examiners to allow municipalities to grant fire investigators the right to carry firearms for the purpose of self-protection in the performance of their duties as civil servants.
We appreciate anyone who signs this petition; however, at this time we are seeking input and signatures from fire investigators and public safety personnel only at this time. You can support our cause by sharing this petition as well or correspond with us via the email address listed below.
Your feedback and letters of support and/or opposition are greatly appreciated and can be sent to OhioFireInvestigatorsRights@gmail.com