TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — A bill is being discussed in a Kansas Senate committee Tuesday that would give fire investigators law enforcement powers in the state.
This means, if an investigator encounters a crime in progress, they would have the legal right to pull-over, detain, and even arrest someone. The Kansas Fire Marshal, Doug Jorgensen, made clear during his testimony in favor of the bill that investigators would not be conducting traffic stops. Jorgensen referenced an incident where a drunk driver was driving on the wrong side of the road, a fire investigator pulled the driver over, and detained them until police arrived.
“Prosecutors in the state were a little leery of bringing cases forward in court because it wasn’t really clear what our law enforcement powers were,” said Jorgensen.
The bill would also require local law enforcement to notify the state Fire Marshal if a death occurred as a result of a fire. This would give fire investigators the opportunity to assist with the investigation, if needed. Jorgensen says this comes after some fire death cases could have been potentially more thoroughly investigated.
“Unfortunately, it might have been accidental, but we’re finding cases where it’s not accidental it’s actually a homicide and then the fire is used to try and cover up that homicide,” explained Jorgensen.
The third part of the bill would update an existing state statute that requires that all gear and equipment being used by Kansas fire departments meet a national standard. The standard referenced in the current statute is from 1988, this bill would allow departments to adopt the current national standard guidelines for equipment.
The bill is expected to be voted on by the Senate Federal and State Affairs committee later this week. If passed, it will move on to the full Senate for discussion.