The story of Wis. firefighter filing a $50,000 claim against the city after alleging a police officer used excessive force when he drew his gun during a traffic stop, drew some strong feelings from many of our readers.
Many from our Facebook community weighed in on the issue since the story was posted. Most sided with the officer, and some backed the firefighter, while some thought both were in the wrong. Here are some of the top comments we received from all points of view:
"The officer acted appropriately. One should stop when police are behind you. You're a volunteer en route to a refrigerator fire. The driver even agreed at the end of the clip. Good luck fella, you already lost." - Peter Kerby
"I have to side with the cop here; he's just doing his job and following procedure. Was him pulling the gun too much? He has a right to protect his life." - Mario Greco
"The officer acted appropriately. A specialty tag means nothing. Failing to yield to a police vehicle does. In the video, I did not see any rear-facing lights, making it difficult to tell if it were a volunteer responding or a 'COPS'-style pursuit. The speeds he reached while responding are unacceptable as well. If you crash while responding you not only are incapable of helping those who have requested it, you also have created a second emergency scene yourself. Slow down." - Garrett Crumby
"Nothing wrong with what the officer did or how he handled himself; in fact, I think he explained himself and handled himself quite well. I dont think volunteer firefighters should be allowed to run ex-police cruisers. Common sense would tell you that running an old cop car with lights is asking for trouble." - Dan Dawson
"You don't have the right to break any traffic laws responding to the station. Even with lights and sirens on your POV. That is how volunteers are killed..." - Jordan David Watson
"Both were wrong, but the officer ran the plate and knew who he was stopping. The ticket was to save face. The whole thing could have been avoided with an explanation and an apology." - David Thompson
"Wow I just watched this, and to be honest everything was handled with professionalism. I appreciated how the officer explained himself fully and just gone through the motions. To file a lawsuit is going to create such bad blood in this jurisdiction." - Gary Scollins
"I have been a volunteer firefighter for over three years and to me this is making them both look bad. We should all get along. We both are there to be good icons and have everyone look up to us. We're there to help keep our community safe. This isn't helping at all." - Bradely Harris
"Yes, the officer executed a high-risk stop as his training indicated for him to do. But once the driver properly identified himself, that should've been the end of it. The citation and report was CYA on the officer's part." - Chris Weimer
"Getting to the call quickly is important but the fire/injury/accident will still be there if you take an extra minute to follow basic traffic laws and not cause another incident there." - Travis Ragone
The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of FireRescue1.com or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser.
Bernard ThayerWednesday, November 07, 2012 12:00:13 PMI believe fire fighters have rules and regulations that they must obey and obeying the laws and rules of the road are one of them, now if he is in his own vehicle he has to obey the law as a citizen, it is not as if he was in an emergency vehicle; on the other hand the officer acted responsibly and did his job accordingly he chased a vehicle at a high speed not knowing who was driven the vehicle " it could have been anyone in that car it could have been stolen as far as he knew" he had the legal right and obligation to have his weapon drawn, the Fire fighter should have thought more clearly about his actions.
Pascal HayWednesday, November 07, 2012 12:01:37 PMEach state has laws that govern the actions and responses of all responders and law enforcement officers. Not being familiar with the state law where this happened at I could not make an informed opinion as to what was and was not right under the law. It may be that the state law in the state in question does not require rear facing lighting. I did see the light flashing on his dash as he turned and off of signs ahead of the volunteer. The officer was of the mindset that he was in pursuit of a possible police imposter. The volunteer was in the mindset that he was responding to a call and the law enforcement officer was responding as well to the call. I as a volunteer and while working as paid I have had law enforcement follow me to a call and never once thought that maybe he was after me. The fact that this person pulled into a fire station that had other responders arriving and getting apparatus ready to go is what most people call a clue. However when you are in a pursuit mode you sometimes have tunnel vision and might miss a clue. It happens to fire and EMS a lot as well. The charge of responding to a nonemergency to me is an afterthought to throw a distraction on the case. Most state laws make mention of a perceived emergency in their laws. At the time of dispatch it was perceived that property and possibly life could be endangered by the situation and it was not until later intelligence reports proved it was no longer a threat. I see where this whole event could have been avoided with some common sense on the part of everyone involved. The big thing is that lessons should be learned and cooperation between agencies is needed to keep such an event from happening again. Anytime you pull a weapon and have your finger near to or on the trigger the risk of someone being shot multiplies greatly. I do not know of any SOP or SOG that states to place your service weapon near enough to a suspect where they may have the opportunity to grab your weapon from you and turn it on you.
James TempleWednesday, November 07, 2012 12:12:57 PMfirefighter's action's? seem's to me he was heading to the fire hall to answer a fire call. did he speed i dont know but he did use his turn signal's, now the officer did speed over 100 mph's and but the dash cam radar didnt show speed of the other vehicle... is the lawsuit stupid yes did the officer issues citation's for speeding or reckless or fleeing????? since the black charger( ff's vehicle) was seem's to be driving pretty normal maybe the officer should thought more clearly about his action's? followed the car more get unit's closer??
Patrick BrocuglioWednesday, November 07, 2012 12:16:57 PMthe cop was doing his job I was a firefighter/emt almost 40 years you do not have the right to drive like an idiot if the cop was trying to pull him over and he didn't stop that's his stupidity guys like that give responsable vollies a bad name ,, I was both paid and volly, the cop drawing hie weapon is his job he doesn't know who is in that car he should have just stopped and told the officer then deal with the ticket or whatever later.
Patrick BrocuglioWednesday, November 07, 2012 12:20:29 PMmost povs are not emergency veh. he should have gave the cop the respect of moving if he thought he was responding to the same call.
Terry W. RichardsonWednesday, November 07, 2012 12:58:12 PMIn some cases you can tell if it's a police officer behind you, But then again the officer did say they had a APB on a similar vehicle impersonating a police officer. So techinally give or take, Police Officer driving 90+ catch up with VFD and whose to say was traveling at 70+, VFD should have slowed down for precaution, And if the dispatch works together they could have identfied the responding VFD member of his exact location and could have relayed to the officer and then advise the VFD that an officer may be in pursuit with the same discription of his vehicle he is in. That would have saved the embarrassment on both part. Law suit, Absolutely NOT! Officer doing his job and VFD doing there's. All public servant is the public eye and we each need to activate team effort on our part. Hope this does not offend anyone, Just a voice of an opinion. Thanks. Well said Pascal Hay.
Michael WeeksWednesday, November 07, 2012 1:04:24 PMWe had a Trooper pull one of our dozers over on the way to a fire.
Terry W. RichardsonWednesday, November 07, 2012 1:06:39 PMIt's happened here to, They see our decals on the door and turn around and walked away telling us to have a safe trip, That was more overtime for me lol
Bernard ThayerWednesday, November 07, 2012 7:50:04 PMI believe if you read it became a high speed chase, and the law states that if he is not in an emergency vehicle he is to obey all the rules of the road, even if an ambulance has a patient in it it has to obey the speed limit unless it is a life and death situation, which in this case it certainly was not, I have a son that is a deputy sheriff and if he was following a vehicle that was unmarked and was traveling at even the speed limit but would not pull over, even if it were me I would expect no different, when you are in one car and someone is in another and both vehicles are going the same speed in the same direction you can not see who is driving that car from behind, so the officer had every right to have his gun drawn; there have been to many officers killed in the past for not being cautious and idiotd with guns
Jfallon JfallonThursday, November 08, 2012 6:15:52 AMIn situations like these, there is usually plenty of blame to go around. The fact that the officer saw the red light on the Firefighter's car was part of his cause to make the stop. He was basing it on the earlier report of someone impersonating a police officer. When the car pulled into a fire/EMS station, the officer should have been able to draw certain logical inferences, and the use of a firearm was probably uncalled for.
Conversely, if the firefighters had pulled over early on, and explained what was going on, the problem might have been avoided. The firefighter claimed he thought they were both going to the same emergency. Well, if that was the case, why not pull over and let the police car go first anyway?
I don't know how big, or small a region this took place in. But, I would think that most police officers would be familiar with the the manner volunteer fire and EMS personnel in their area respond. Having spent many years in both law enforcement and the volunteer fire service, I am surpised that the officer was not more familiar with his companion emergency services.
Perhaps a good answer to the problem would be that the police spend some time at the volunteer fire and EMS stations, getting an understanding of what they do, and how they respond. And that the fire company spend some time training members on what to do if a police vehicle falls in behind them with its emergency lights and siren activated. And, the police dispatch center could provide valuable information if they monitored fire and EMS radio, and broadcast a message when a fire or EMS call was in progress, even if police assistance was not necessary.
Bob SmithThursday, November 08, 2012 11:02:17 AMI spent 28 years with the County Sheriff's Department as a Deputy and Detective and I now have served approximately 5 years in the capacity of a volunteer Fire Chief here in Southern California. It is unfortunate that situations like this continue to drive a wedge between fire and law enforcement. Several people posting remarks about assumptions on what the officer could have done differently and I can tell you that "assumptions" get officers killed. Given the length of the "pursuit", I believe the police officer acted very professionally and with a higher degree of courtesy than possibly I would have.
Wearing my "fire hat", I advise my firefighters to slow and yield to law enforcement responding to a call with us and allow them to pass. In our area if law enforcement is rolling to a scene with us, I want them getting their first to mitigate any dangers. They have guns, we don't!
Given what I observed on the dash cam, the lawsuit is totally out of line. It should have been obvious to the firefighter, when the officer continued to follow him to the station and not to the call, that the officer wanted him to pull over. Again it is unfortunate that this will have a effect on future relationships between these two agencies.
Scott LewisSunday, November 11, 2012 3:51:55 PMThe first thing anyone responding POV as is with responding in an apparatus is to respond with due regaurd, that means not responding at break neck speeds that can harm yourself or others. Second POV responces are to obey all traffic laws, this includes yeilding to emergency vehicles, to which your POV is not. Third responding POV with lights is a request for other traffic to yeild not a right in most jurisictions. Last but not least, most of the time you could probably get to the station just as quick and safe if you ran routine. Besides you've seen it before, people will do crazy things in front of you when they see flashing lights right? So what's the point, this whole incident could have been avoided if the volunteer just used his head.