Officers Told To Let Firefighters Make Rescues

Officers Told To Wait For Fire Department At Structure Fires

Police officers in Lawrence have been told they should wait for firefighters to arrive at the scene of a burning building, even if they know someone is trapped inside.

The policy change was prompted by a concern for officer safety, police officials told 6News' Jack Rinehart.

"Whenever possible, we'll let those professionals deal with the fire who have the right equipment, and the ability to save themselves, as well as the victims," said Lawrence police Chief Paul Whitehead.

The Lawrence Fire Department responded to more than 1,500 structure fires last year, with an average response time of just more than four minutes.

The police department's average response time is about two minutes faster, and some residents said they think officers should help out if they're first to respond.

"If they can get somebody out, even though they're policemen, to me, that's their job," one woman said.

But fire officials said allowing officers to enter burning buildings before the blaze has been evaluated is dangerous, and can create more work for firefighters.

"We really don't want the added work of trying to remove a public safety person or citizen going in to rescue somebody, in addition to rescuing the person that's in there already," said Lawrence fire Chief Dave Carlson.

Indianapolis police do not have a policy concerning how officers should respond when they arrive at a fire scene before firefighters.