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Video: Working with law enforcement in the fire service

It’s up to each of us to do the work and ensure we’re complementing each other’s missions

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for my friends in the fire service, and it’s about your relationship with the law enforcement officers in your community.

Every day, you work alongside law enforcement. Sometimes, you’re personal friends. But that doesn’t mean you share the same professional perspective.

How well do you operate together? When was the last time you talked about things like incident objectives, scene safety, or departmental policy? Can you communicate directly with each other on a radio? What about in person? Do the same words have different meanings depending on who’s using them?

All too often, we hear stories about firefighters being arrested at highway incidents. Police officers getting injured in fires. Or EMS providers getting hurt at active law enforcement scenes. How can we tell if we’re helping or hindering each other? When should we step in? When should we be out of each other’s way? The only way to answer these questions is to talk about them.

If you’re a chief or a department training officer, consider setting up an interagency training plan that addresses how the different disciplines operate. We can all stand to learn something about each other’s procedures. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a little light-hearted ribbing about who has the better job?

Regardless of your rank, take the time to get to know your law enforcement counterparts and learn about their job. Ask them what they need from you and offer them your insight on fire operations. Communication is the key to avoiding conflicts.

Whether you’re operating at a structure fire, a traffic incident, an EMS call, or an active shooter event, you must be able to work effectively with law enforcement. Good professional relationships often start with personal ones. It’s up to each of us to do the work and ensure we’re complementing each other’s missions.

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Until next time, Gordon Graham signing off.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.