Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation that strengthens the vetting process for volunteer firefighter organizations by requiring applicants to submit to a background check for any prior sex offense convictions.
Firefighters are often in a position where they serve and protect vulnerable members of their communities which is why it is imperative that our volunteer firefighter organizations are staffed with highly qualified and dedicated individuals, Governor Cuomo said. By allowing these groups to screen for sexual offenders and remove any individuals who have been convicted of sexual offenses, we are supporting some of our most important local volunteer groups and taking a strong step toward having safer communities across the state.
Volunteer firefighters frequently work in the presence of vulnerable individuals, including children. This bill would require prospective volunteer firefighters to authorize a background check for sex offense convictions if the individual wishes to proceed with his or her application. The bill would also allow individual fire companies to determine if the prospective volunteer is eligible to become a volunteer member of such fire company if that person has been convicted of a registerable sex offense is found.
This law passed both houses of the legislature as S1885C and A2318D, respectively.
Senator John J. Bonacic said, Volunteer fire department personnel should have all the means necessary to prevent convicted sex offenders from becoming volunteers, and remove any who presently serve. Oftentimes, volunteer firefighters are in situations where children and families are present, whether in the actions of a fire or medical emergency, but they also take part in community and school events. This will give those that approve new volunteer firefighters the support they need. I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this common sense measure into law.
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther said, Volunteer firefighters are an invaluable and integral part of our community. They are in positions of trust and authority, regularly interacting with children, seniors and families who are vulnerable. This legislation goes a long way to ensuring that fire departments have all the tools they need to protect the community, as well as the department.