THE Trinidad and Tobago Fire Association is welcoming of the idea that their members be used to battle crime, however, they would prefer to be consulted on the dynamics of this initiative before it is rolled out.
In a telephone interview with the Express yesterday General Secretary of the Association Marlon Forde, said the association welcomed any idea to reduce crime and supported a working relationship with newly appointed Minister of National Security Jack Warner.
Warner after being sworn in as National Security officer, on June 22, said fire officers and members of the regiment along with police can patrol "hot spot" areas to battle crime.
Forde said that the service is currently under staffed and any additional use of fire officers to fight crime will further strain the service as it is now seeking to re-brand itself to include land searches and sea rescue.
"We will want to sit in first to hear what proposal the Minister has and in what capacity he will want fire officers in the crime fight. Powers of arrest can be delegated to us that usually the police are responsible for enforcing such as charging people under the Agricultural Fires Act for deliberately setting fire, arson and most of these areas where public safety is concerned, these powers can be given to fire officers," Forde said.
Forde said to use the fire officers in the fight against crime will affect the manpower that the service has, adding that to use them to patrol streets will ultimately mean to vary their terms and conditions of employment, which strictly fall under the purview of the Chief Personnel Officer.
"We had job evaluations from 1999 and in no part did it factor any aspect for us to be deployed or used for crime fighting initiatives," Forde said.
He said with the plan compensation and safety of the officers will also have to be addressed and it is not something that can take effect overnight by the directive of a Minister.
Forde said the Fire Service, 54 years ago, was an arm of the Police Service and as a result a lot of their processes are similar to the police and in that regard the officers would have had similar training.
Speaking at the police press briefing yesterday public information officer ASP Joanne Archie, when asked how feasible it would be to use fire officers to fight crime, said she does not want to pre-empt any discussions that Warner would have with Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs on the issue.
"We welcome any amount of assistance or strategy that is put in place to make our community a better place," Archie said.