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HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,

SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA,

Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 12:05 p.m., in Room 1310, Longworth House Office Building, Honorable William L. Hungate, Chairman) presiding.

Present: Representatives Hungate (Chairman), Mikva, Nelsen, Thomson and Smith.

Also present: James T. Clark, clerk; Hayden S. Garber, counsel; John Hogan, minority clerk; and Leonard O. Hilder, investigator.

Mr. HUNGATE. We will take up at this time H.R. 5638, providing for criminal penalties for assaults on firemen.

(H.R. 5638 together with the accompanying staff memorandum follow :)

H.R. 5638, 92d Cong., 1st Sess., by Mr. McMillan on March 4, 1971

A BILL To extend the penalty for assault on a police officer in the District of Columbia to assaults on firemen, to provide criminal penalties for interfering with firemen in the performance of their duties, and for other purposes

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That subsection (a) of section 432 of the Revised Statutes relating to the District of Columbia (D.C. Code, sec. 22–505) is amended by inserting after “District of Columbia," where such phrase first appears, the following: "or any officer or member of any fire department operating in the District of Columbia,”.

(Staff Memorandum, Mar. 29, 1971) H.R. 5638 (MCMILLAN)— PROVIDE PENALTIES FOR ASSAULTS ON FIREMEN

PURPOSE OF BILL

This bill, recommended by D.C. Government, provides the same penalties for assaults on firemen, as the law imposes for assaults on policemen.

It is urged that where the efforts of firemen are being interfered with, prompt, effective action is necessary to prevent widespread destruction of property.

PROVISIONS OF BILL At the present time there is no law in the District of Columbia making it a crime to assault or otherwise interfere with a fireman while he is performing his duties in connection with extinguishing a fire. In order to constitute this kind of activity a criminal offense, the bill amends subsection (a) of section 432 of the Revised Statutes relating to the District of Columbia (D.C. Code, sec. 22–505), presently applying to assaults on police officers and employees of penal and correctional institutions, so as to extend its coverage to officers and members of the District of Columbia Fire Department and any other fire department operating in the District of Columbia.

PRESENT LAW

D.C. Code, Tit. 22, Sec. 505 as amended by H.R. 5638, would provide:

"(a) Whoever without justifiable and excusable cause, assaults, resists, opposes, impedes, intimidates or interferes with any officer or member of any police force operating in the District of Columbia, or any officer or member of any fire department operating in the District of Columbia or any officer or employee of any penal or correctional institution of the District of Columbia, or any officer or employee of the government of the District of Columbia charged with the supervision of juveniles being confined pursuant to law in any facility of the District of Columbia, whether such institution is located within the District of Columbia or elsewhere, while engaged in or on account of the performance of his official duties, shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than five years or both. (New matter in italic.)

"(b) Whoever in the commission of any such acts uses a deadly or dangerous weapon shall be imprisoned not more than ten years."

Mr. HUNGATE. The first witness is Acting Chief Loyde N. Balcom, D.C. Fire Department.

Chief, I certainly thank you for your patience in waiting: We proceeded as well as we could here. We are glad to have you with us. And we will be very interested to hear your testimony, sir. Do you have a prepared statement?

STATEMENT OF LOYDE N. BALCOM, ACTING CHIEF, D.C. FIRE DE

PARTMENT, ACCOMPANIED BY LT. ROBERT C. PECK, COMMUNITY RELATIONS OFFICER, AND WILLIAM A. ROBINSON, ASSISTANT CORPORATION COUNSEL

Chief BALCOM. No, I do not have a prepared statement. However, I have Mr. Robinson here with me from the Corporation Counsel's Office, and I believe he has a prepared statement from the Mayor on that.

Mr. HUNGATE. Mr. Robinson, would you present that statement now?

Mr. ROBINSON. Yes.

Mr. Chairman, I would like at this time to suggest that there be put into the record a letter from Mr. Graham W. Watt, Assistant to the Commissioner, addressed to the Honorable John L. McMillan under date of March 26, 1971.

Mr. HUNGATE. Without objection that will be placed in the record.

Mr. Robinson, this is a two-page letter on behalf of the District of Columbia, addressed to Mr. McMillan dated March 26, 1971, is that correct?

Chief Balcom. That is correct, sir.

Mr. HUNGATE. It will be accepted without objection for inclusion in the record.

(The letter follows:)

GOVERNMENT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA,

Washington, D.C., March 26, 1971. Hon. John L. McMILLAN, Chairman, Committee on the District of Columbia, United States House of

Representatives, Washington, D.C. DEAR MR. McMillan: The Commissioner of the District of Columbia has for report H.R. 5638, a bill “To extend the penalty for assault on a police officer in the District of Columbia to assaults on firemen, to provide criminal penalties for interfering with firemen in the performance of their duties, and for other purposes.”

At the present time assault on a fireman, or interference with a fireman while he is performing his duties in connection with extinguishing a fire, are not the subject of a specific statute. Prosecutions must be brought under the general assault, disorderly conduct, or rioting statutes. In this regard, it should be noted that there were 33 incidents of assaults against District of Columbia firemen during calendar year 1970.

H.R. 5638 amends subsection (a) of section 432 of the Revised Statutes relating to the District of Columbia (D.C. Code, sec. 22-505(a)), presently applying to assaults on police officers and employees of penal, correctional, or juvenile institutions, to extend its coverage to officers and members of the District of Columbia Fire Department and any other fire department operating in the District of Columbia. In emergency situations involving interference with firemen in the performance of their duties, prompt and effective enforcement of a statute specifically covering these situations is necessary to prevent widespread destruction of property.

In light of the foregoing, the Commissioner of the District of Columbia recommends enactment of H.R. 5638. Sincerely yours,

GRAHAM W. WATT,

Assistant to the Commissioner. (For Walter E. Washington, Commissioner).

Mr. ROBINSON. I would like to briefly summarize what is in the letter.

Mr. HUNGATE. Yes, sir.

Mr. ROBINSON. It indicates that, at the present time, assaults on firemen or interference with a fireman while he is performing his duties in connection with extinguishing a fire are not the subject of a specific statute.

If any individual fireman is assaulted, the defendant may be prosecuted under the General Assault Statute. And if there is a weapon involved, he could be charged with the crime of assault with a deadly weapon. But there is no specific statute, as it is in the case of policemen or people or correctional officers, which applies to assaults on a fireman while he is performing his duties.

In this regard it should be noted that there were thirty-three incidents of assault against the District of Columbia firemen during 1970. H.R. 5638 will correct this deficiency. It will extend the present prohibition against assaults on policemen and others to firemen, not only those of the District Fire Department, but of any member of a fire department which may be operating within the District of Columbia.

In emergency situations involving interference with firemen in the performance of their duty, prompt and effective enforcement of a statute specifically covering these situations is necessary to prevent widespread destruction of property and to prevent unwarranted and untoward incidents against the firemen.

Because of these various reasons, the commissioner of the District of Columbia strongly recommend the enactment of H.R. 9368.

Mr. HUNGATE. Thank you, Mr. Robinson.
Chief, do you have any statement you wish to make at this time?
Chief Balcom. I would like to read a short statement.

TYPES OF ASSAULT

I am completely in accord with the recommenation to bring' firemen under the protection of the assault on the police officers' section to make it a felony to throw dangerous objects at firemen. Our engine companies respond with two pieces of apparatus. The leading piece is often the target of rock and bottle throwers. I fee that this bill would greatly deter attacks upon our engine companies responding to alarms. These types of attacks do interfere with our operation, and as such, then, increase the fire loss in the city.

Thank you.
Mr. HUNGATE. They mention thirty-three instances of assault.
Were these all rocks? Were any of the weapons rocks or bottles or
knives or what? What was the most serious?

Chief Balcom. Most all of them were rocks and bottles.
Mr. HUNGATE. Did you have any firemen injured in these incidents?

Chief Balcom. We have had several cases. I do not have a record of them here with me.

Mr. HUNGATE. Do any of them call for hospitalization?
Chief Balcom. I believe in one case they did.
Mr. HUNGATE. Do you know of any opposition to this measure?
Chief BALCOM. Not that I am aware of.
Mr. HUNGATE. Mr. Robinson, you are aware of none?
Mr. Robinson. No, sir; Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HUNGATE. Mr. Smith?

PRESENT LAW

Mr. Smith. Mr. Robinson, as I understand it, the assaults for which this bill is designed are already criminally illegal, is that correct?

Mr. ROBINSON. Yes, there is an existing statute which provides that a specific assault against the fireman would be prosecuted under the general assault statute.

Mr. Smith. But not mentioning the fireman.

Mr. ROBINSON. But not mentioning the fireman, an assault against a person, yes, Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith. And as I understand it, there is a particular statute prohibiting such assaults against policemen?

Mr. Robinson. Policemen, and any officer or employee of a penal or correctional institution of the District, are already covered by a specific statute, which of course makes it much easier to bring a complaint and to prosecute the case.

Mr. Smith. This is my question. Why do you need this kind of a statute? When it is illegal to assault a person, does it make it more so to assault either a policeman or a fireman, or does it make it easier to

а prosecute?

Mr. Robinson. The specific statute is much more broad. Maybe if I read it it might bring out the point you are thinking about.

“Whoever without justifiable and excusable cause assaults, resists, opposes, impedes, intimidates or interferes with any officer or member of any police force operating in the District of Columbia, or any officer or employee of a penal or correctional institution in the District of Columbia, * shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than five years or both.” (D.C. Code, Tit. 22, Sec. 505)

So the effect of the statute is to specifically impose a felony type of penalty against anyone who not only assaults a policeman in the performance of his duties, but who interferes or hinders his operations. With the passage of H.R. 5638, that same type of protection would be extended to firemen.

Mr. SMITH. In looking at the present law that you just quoted, Mr. Robinson, in addition to assault, which would be now covered by the general statute, it also proscribes the action of one who resists, opposes, impedes, intimidates or interferes, which I would assume would not be covered by the present general statute of assault for every person. Would not you say that was correct?

Mr. ROBINSON. That is correct, Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith. So that there is an addition in this police statute-these other actions of resisting, opposing, impeding or intimidating or interfering with an officer while he is engaged in his duty, which you would now, by this proposal, extend to firemen?

Mr. Robinson. That is correct. So that proposal is really broader than the present statute which applies to you and me?

The existing statute is very limited and requires a direct assault by a person upon a fireman in the performance of his duties.

Mr. SMITH. You will still require that under the new statute, but you will also have resisting, opposing, impeding, interfering and so forth

One other question. What is the penalty of the present general assault statute, that is, if somebody assaults you or me criminally? Is it less than the proposal here of $5,000 and five years?

I am informed that the present general assault statute calls for imprisonment for not more than one year.

Mr. ROBINSON. That is the simple assault statute.

Mr. Smith. So, in effect, this proposal will make such activity directed against fireman into a felony?

Mr. Robinson. That is one of the purposes of the bill—one of the results of the bill, rather.

MUTUAL AID AGREEMENTS

Mr. Smith. Chief Balcom, do the firemen in the District operate under mutual aid agreements?

Chief Balcom. Yes, we have mutual aid agreements with the surrounding cities.

Mr. Smith. So there could be times when fire companies from outside the District would come in to help?

Chief Balcom. Yes. They did in 1968.
Mr. Smith. Under your mutual aid agreements?
Chief Balcon. That is correct.

Mr. Smith. One other question. Because of the recent assaults on firemen, has there been any effort—and I do not know whether this would be possible—has there been any effort to try to organize a police convoy as your number one equipment goes up?

Chief BALCOM. We work together all the time with the Police Department in this area. Sometimes these assaults are by groups that are very difficult for the police to handle. And it makes it difficult in the police relations in the community. And a bill such as this, I think, would be bringing out the seriousness of this type of action, and would do a lot to stop it before it takes place.

Mr. Smith. You think this would have some psychological value, probably, by pointing out the seriousness of this particular kind of activity?

Chief Balcom. That is what I mean, yes.

59-596 0471-2

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