Hands full with arson cases, Fire Department seeks arrest powers

By By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Jan. 25, 2001
Meridian Fire Chief Bunky Partridge said Wednesday he will seek law enforcement certification for his Arson Task Force investigator a move that could take some arson investigations and arrests out of police officials' hands.
Members of the Arson Task Force made up of officials from the Meridian police and fire departments have recently been inundated with nine suspected arsons since Dec. 1, six of which are believed to be related.
The Arson Task Force, headed by police Capt. Betty Evans and Fire Marshal David Henson, is currently comprised of Meridian Police Department detectives Andy Havard and Bob Tinsley and Meridian Fire Department Investigator Vince Vincent and an accelerant-sniffing dog, Schroeder.
Vincent was assigned to the task force on Monday, three days after completing training at the National Fire Academy.
Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith said he agrees with the decision.
Vincent said Schroeder, an $80,000 gift from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, cuts investigation time in half.
Henson said other fire departments, such as the Jackson Fire Department, have investigative teams which have arrest powers because they possess law enforcement certificates.
Under the MFD's administrative policy, adopted in 1997, fire officials have no authority to conduct criminal investigations and can assist in the "… documentation and collection of evidence, the interviewing of witnesses, and reconstruction of the fire scene if requested to do so."
Henson said while he and the MFD investigator have the authority to investigate the cause and origin of a fire, their authority basically stops there.
@shirttale:Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at mtodd@themeridianstar.com.

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