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Police are criticized for dressing as firefighters to trick, arrest man

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posted on Mar, 5 2009 @ 10:20 PM
Police in this New Hampshire town are being criticized for dressing as firefighters to flush out and arrest a man who had earlier pointed a gun at an officer responding to a noise complaint.

NEWPORT, N.H. (AP) — Police in Newport, N.H., say they dressed as firefighters to trick a man and arrest him after he pointed a shotgun at an officer.

Police set off a fire alarm to evacuate an apartment building Tuesday night and arrested 34-year-old Matthew Miller when he opened his door.

Earlier, an officer knocked at Miller's door after neighbors complained he was playing loud music. Miller pointed a shotgun at the officer, who talked him into setting it down. But the officer backed off when he saw other weapons and a toddler in the apartment.

Officers returned dressed as firefighters to set off the fire alarm to draw Miller out of his apartment and avoid a standoff. Police say Miller is a convicted felon with a history of violence.

But state firefighters have criticized the tactic, saying it destroys the public's faith and trust in them:

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire firefighters are protesting the use of police disguised as firefighters to defuse a standoff.

Members of the state's largest firefighters' union, the New Hampshire Association of Fire Chiefs and the Seacoast Chief Fire Officers Association held a news conference Thursday afternoon, two days after Newport police officers dressed as firefighters and set off a fire alarm to arrest a man who they say had pointed a shotgun at an officer.

Union president David Lang says allowing such impersonations makes a firefighter's job harder because the public might have doubts about who's really responding to an emergency. He wants the state safety commissioner and attorney general to demand that police never do it again.

I don't see the problem. I think it was a clever tactic, esp. since there was a toddler involved.

posted on Mar, 5 2009 @ 10:23 PM
While I can sympathize with the Fire Fighters stance, the ultimate good accomplished by defusing a potentially dangerous situation far outweighs that concern.

IMO of course..


posted on Mar, 5 2009 @ 10:41 PM
It does sound like a good tactic, but the truth is that such tactics have historically created ill-will in certain communities toward all public servants when police disguise themselves as other public servants.

It should not be this way, but it is and the police should know this from experience.

posted on Mar, 5 2009 @ 11:02 PM
I agree with the firefighters, they are the ones getting a bad rap from all of this. Its not bad enough that firefighters are getting shot at putting out fires in bad neighborhoods across the united states only to have people disguising themselves to fulfill their own means to an end.

yea yea, they got the guy and they were really 'clever' in doing so, but that doesnt mean that it was the only and best option.

posted on Mar, 5 2009 @ 11:07 PM
reply to post by Common Good

I would be fascinated to hear your ideas on how to get a "Past Proven" violent offender out of an apartment safely?

The "Other options" you speak of would be welcome to many thousands of Police Officers that have tried to think of ways and quite often failed.

If you would post them, I will advise you if they have been tried and the outcome.


posted on Mar, 5 2009 @ 11:11 PM
Yes this is B.S.

The officer talked the guy into putting the gun away and to turn down the music, right? Thats what it says ..

But then ... THE COP .. feeling SOOOOOOO BUTT HURT: "OMG! OMG OMG GUYS! Someone pointed a gun at ME for once. It wasn't normal like when we pull ours out on someone and scare the piss out of them. This son-of-a-*bleep* actually pointed a shotgun at me, a uniformed officer, through a crack in the door after I knocked and before he knew who was knocking, he stuck the barrel of a shotgun through the door at me! OMFG!

Other officer: NOBODY, and I mean NOBODY points guns in a threatening manner at innocent people except us. EXCEPT US. WE DESTROY THE PEOPLE'S TRUST AND NOBODY ELSE. Let's go pay this guy a visit and show him who's boss. Who wants to flush him out?

Another officer: Well I was thinking, we could trip the fire alarm (other officers giggle in delight throughout the planning room) until he comes out unarmed, throw him on the ground, and then we can either tazer him repeatedly, or each of us pull our piece on him, thats what, 6 guns?

Other officer: (deep southern accent) Screw that, I'm bringin' the AR-15 tactical that Sherriff got sitting in his trunk, *grin*, gonna scare the piss outta that boy.

Another officer: Alright boys, let's ride!

Just like the days of the great wild west ... whos' more dangerous the outlaws or the officers I do not know..

[edit on 3/5/2009 by runetang]

posted on Mar, 5 2009 @ 11:23 PM
don't know what to even think about this one- having been a firefighter myself- we are probably the only pubilc servants that the public trusts.
do i agree with the fd? yes
do i agree with the pd? yes-was a cunning move
i don't know all the facts but it would seem to me if the officer talked him into putting his gun down why didn't he take him and arrest him then?
and why was the guy blaring music anyway with a toddler in there?- kid will probably have some hearing loss for life because of it

posted on Mar, 5 2009 @ 11:24 PM
reply to post by semperfortis

Im not going to sit here and try to list ways they could have gotten to him rather then playing dress up.
I will be here all day, and I really dont care about this subject that much to spend all night on this one topic. Sorry.
They are the Police Department, they should already have these kinds of arrest procedures in place.
I didnt know playing Ken and Barbie dress up was police procedure.

Its easy for them to do, but I think they should have at least asked permission from the fire department before doing so. The fire department is the one getting the short end of the stick on this one. I also believe if you or I were to dress up as a fire fighter or a cop for that matter, that we would be in serious legal trouble for imitating a public official, but not the cops, they are special. "but the cops are public officials, they can do it"
I dont think that is the case, they arent a part of the fire department, and they dont work for the feds, so I dont believe they should be able to do so legally.

posted on Mar, 5 2009 @ 11:28 PM
reply to post by Common Good

Originally posted by Common Good
I agree with the firefighters, they are the ones getting a bad rap from all of this. Its not bad enough that firefighters are getting shot at putting out fires in bad neighborhoods across the united states only to have people disguising themselves to fulfill their own means to an end.

yea yea, they got the guy and they were really 'clever' in doing so, but that doesnt mean that it was the only and best option.

That happens in Watts, but we're talking about Newport, NH here, population less than 6,500.

It's ironic that the criticism is coming from the union (at the state capitol, miles and miles away from Newport), and not the Newport FD. The Newport FD actually co-operated by lending uniforms to the police.

I didnt know playing Ken and Barbie dress up was police procedure.

Never heard of undercover, eh?

[edit on 5-3-2009 by jsobecky]

posted on Mar, 5 2009 @ 11:33 PM
There's all kinds of ways that you can trick someone out of the apartment. Calling him up saying he won a prize for example. Bounty hunters use that one all the time.

However, from the story I don't see the crime. A man points a gun at someone knocking on the door. When the officer identifies himself the man put the gun down and created no more problems.

What makes that illegal?

posted on Mar, 5 2009 @ 11:34 PM
ok now my next question is- what if setting off the fire alarm sent the rest of the tenants into panic and someone died?
just like yelling fire in a crowded movie theater.
or a kid at school pulled it as a joke?
now what would happen? are the police liable for a wrongful death lawsuit? after all they broke the law and caused a death- which we would be in jail for a long time and also sued- but wait they are the police they can do anything they want
i can go either way on what they did but to knowingly do something illegal that can get people injured or even killed i believe is wrong

posted on Mar, 5 2009 @ 11:48 PM
Is it a crime to impersonate a firefighter in that state? (New Hampshire, wasn't it?)

posted on Mar, 5 2009 @ 11:51 PM
I dont know how it couldnt be a crime?
a public official is a public official regardless of state.

posted on Mar, 5 2009 @ 11:56 PM

They didnt need to play dress up to get this guy.
They could have arrested him right then and there when they were at the door after he put the gun down>?
Do the police have the right to impersonate other public officials whenever they feel the need?

posted on Mar, 6 2009 @ 12:26 AM
not sure about new hampshire but in pa. it is
and also when i was a lt. (or any other officer on scene) we actually have the right to throw the police off the scene. a fire scene is controlled by the FD! we even have the right to arrest people if need be if a cop is not around immediately. i once tackled a guy and had him arrested because of a garage fire because he ran up screaming there is someone inside.
when i asked who he was he started running away.
and if you thinking chasing someone with 50lbs of gear on and an scba is easy- no it is not and i used to run track
but when i caught him he went down like a ton of bricks and he got jail time for it. he could have killed some of my guys for doing that because first and foremost a firefighters duty is to save a life if possible.
the police are on a fire scene only for traffic control and other incidents- if you can even get them to help- pffffff
now if they did this incident with the PERMISSION of the fd then the fd has no argument- but if they did it without PERMISSION then yes they have a beef
like i said i don't know the whole story so i can't pass judgment

posted on Mar, 6 2009 @ 06:52 AM
I think it was a great tactic by the police to use the fire alarm in order to bring a non violent solution to a potentially dangerous situation.

However the police should be charged with impersonation of a firefighter. What they did, while the right thing is still a crime. The other charge of false fire alarm is also a crime. I think a fine and probation for the officers involved would be justifiable.

J. IMPERSONATING A FIREFIGHTER. 2005 PA 170-171. Effective January 1, 2006. It's a felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to 2 years and/or a fine of up to $1,000 to impersonate a firefighter or EMT with the intent to do one of more of the following. MCL 750.217f. The sentence may be served consecutively and it's a G felony under the guidelines. MCL 777.16L.

1. Perform the duties of a firefighter or emergency medical service personnel.
2. Represent to another person that he or she is a firefighter or emergency medical service personnel for any unlawful purpose.
3. Compel a person to do or refrain from doing any act against his or her will.
4. Gain or attempt to gain entry to a residence, building, structure, facility, or other property.
5. Remain or attempt to remain in or upon a residence, building, structure, facility, or other property.
6. Gain or attempt to gain access to financial account information.
7. Commit or attempt to commit a crime.
8. Obtain or attempt to obtain information to which the individual is not entitled.
9. Gain access or attempt to gain access to a person less than 18 years of age or a vulnerable adult.

I am sure that New Hampshire has a similar law on the books. I mean this is a case where the ends justify the means, but this is a nation of laws and we cannot simply abide by our law enforcement officers breaking the law in order to apprehend criminals.

posted on Mar, 6 2009 @ 06:56 AM

There is an exemption under state statute giving the Police immunity from such statutes in regards to "Line of Duty" actions...

At least there is in DE, MD, and SC

I would hazard there is in NH as well..


posted on Mar, 6 2009 @ 07:11 AM
reply to post by semperfortis

Don't get me wrong, I think that the officers in this case made a brilliant call. I think that this was a great way to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation. No loss of life, no beat down of the suspect. People taken out of harms way efficiently. All great and just reasons for acting this way.

But what this does do is give the defence a hole in the prosecution. It gives the defence the argument that a criminal act was used by police in the exicution of their duty. It's a potentially slippery slope that makes it harder for a district attorney to do their job.

I do like the outcome. Someone who has proven they are a violent criminal in the past having firearms is illegal. Couple that problem the individual did threaten a LEO, and add to the mix a small child. You have a nightmare for police. What the police did in my opinion was brilliant. It made the outcome much better than to say fill the suspect full of lead and potentially injuring or killing innocent bystanders and perhaps even the child.

posted on Mar, 6 2009 @ 07:17 AM
That's the point I was making WUKKY...

In the states I am familiar with, it is NOT a criminal action..

This has been done in many guises, on many occasions and for many different reasons...

Man with a hard hat and clip board is never questioned...


Board of Health

Bug Man


It is not a defense loop hole as it is pretty routine, again, where I am familiar with.. I would imagine it is there as well..

What makes this a story now is that the Union got there undies in a bunch...


posted on Mar, 6 2009 @ 11:22 AM
reply to post by semperfortis

But one has to wonder if it is entrapment. Would the man have acted differently if he was aware of the police there?

Not saying they really did anything wrong, fact of the matter I think they did a great service. They stoped a potentially life threatining situation by distraction instead of force.

But how far is too far?

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