November 19, 2018

Fire marshals and police officers


Fire marshals and police officers
Rossi v NYCMTA, NYS Supreme Court

Are New York City fire marshals police officers? The answer to this question proved to be the key to resolving Rossi v the New York City Municipal Transit Authority [NYCMTA]. City fire marshals Thomas Rossi and Gregory A. Papa complained that NYCMTA failed to include fire marshals in its police ride program as required by §1266(14) of the Public Authorities Law.

§1266.14 requires NYCMTA, in consultation with the Long Island Rail Road, to "establish and implement a "no fare program" on the Long Island Rail Road for police officers employed by the City of New York, the County of Nassau, Nassau County villages, the Division of State Police and a number of other public employers. The goal of the program was to increase protection and improve safety for its commuters by encouraging a "police presence" on commuter trains.

Claiming fire marshals have police officer status, Papa challenged the rejection of his application for a monthly transit pass under the program, citing as authority for his position Criminal Procedure Law, §1.20[34](i) and the Administrative Code of the City of New York §15-117. Two law suits were filed, one by Rossi and a second by Papa, when NYCMTA's refused to include the City's 238 fire marshals in the program. The two were later consolidated into a single action.

In defending its decision, NYCMTA argued  that the program was only available "to active members in good standing of the police departments specifically referenced in the [§1266(14) of the Public Authorities Law] ... [and] does not apply to individuals not ordinarily thought of as police officers, such as fire marshals, district attorney investigators and enforcement agents of the State's Department of Taxation and Finance."

The Court, disagreed, ruling that NYCMTA's implementation of the police pass program constituted an irrational construction of the §1266(14).

Noting that the fire marshals carried firearms and had the same power of arrest as members of the New York City Police Department, the Court directed NYCMTA to include all police officers employed by the City of New York, the chief and deputy fire marshals, the supervising fire marshal and the fire marshals of the bureau of fire investigation in the program.

The Court also commented that "[a]ll police officers in the State of New York derive their official status from the provisions of §1.20(34) of the Criminal Procedure Law."


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