Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) introduced the Fire Police Fairness Act (H.R. 1828), which clarifies that fire-police officers who perform traffic incident management duties as officially recognized or designated members of a legally organized public-safety agency, are public-safety officers and qualify for the Public Safety Officers Benefit (PSOB).
Dave Finger, government relations for the National Volunteer Fire Council, said clarification is needed for the protections of fire-police responders serving public-safety agencies, who no longer may be able to serve in a firefighting capacity but work traffic control for a fire department. Fire police mainly do traffic control for roadside emergencies when firefighters may be extricating a person.
“They are just trained to direct traffic,” he said. “Frequently, they are those who were firefighters who are up in age and can’t run into burning buildings anymore. A lot of times, these people are lifelong members of a volunteer fire department who still want to be productive.”
If a fire-police officer is hit by a car and killed, he or she is not eligible for the PSOB under current rules, Finger said. This is due to language in the PSOB statue that narrowly defines firefighting as fire suppression.
“[H.R. 1828] states that if you are acting as a fire-police officer — you have to be trained, it has to be done for a public-safety agency and working in an official capacity,” he said. “Then, you would be eligible for PSOB as a fire police officer, as it creates a new category of a public-safety officer.”
The introduction of the bill is the first step to moving the issue forward, Finger said. Next, the NVFC will release an action alert for all fire-service members to contact their representatives and senators asking them to co-sponsor the bill.
“We also have been following up with certain members of Congress to get folks in a position to really move this forward,” he said.
Courtney was joined in introducing H.R. 1828 by a bi-partisan group of the bill's original co-sponsors: Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Etsy (D-Conn.), Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), James Himes (D-Conn.), John Larson (D-Conn.), Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.).