The Firefighter Bill of Rights (AB 220) was passed in 2008 in response to the Police Officer Bill of Rights. It’s clear that police officers needed something to protect them as the people they were arresting often had greater protection than they did when they were the subject of an investigation.
As a result, we as firefighters pressured the legislature for Firefighter Bill of Rights (AB 220). Since it was passed, there have been relatively few challenges to the Firefighter Bill of Rights. Consequently, there has been little case law either challenging or defending the Firefighter Bill of Rights.
It’s critically important that Officers (Lieutenants, Captains, and Battalion Chiefs) are intimately familiar with the Firefighter Bill of Rights. The reason is simple, if an officer begins an investigation without allowing for union representation, the member is eligible for injunctive relief. What does this legal term mean to us? It’s simple, it’s similar to a police officer witnessing a crime and arresting the suspect. If the officer fails to read the suspect his Miranda rights, the suspect is set free regardless of the evidence.
The same is true for a violation of the Firefighter Bill of Rights. A member is unable to be charged if the proper procedures are not followed. If it is determined that there was a malicious intent on the part of the department, they may be fined $25,000.
By the time the issue has reached the administrative level (gold badge stage), it’s likely that either a Captain or a Lieutenant has had some exposure to the individual. If this has been handled incorrectly from the beginning, it’s is possible that the disciplinary process has been compromised. For these reasons, you can guarantee that the promotional examinations will have a Firefighter Bill of Rights component associated with it.