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Governor signs legislation strengthening background checks for volunteer firefighter organizations

ALBANY - Governor Andrew Cuomo 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.”

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.

“Volunteer firefighters frequently interact with children and individuals who are in vulnerable situations,” said The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York President James Burns.  “Our volunteer firefighters are trusted members of the communities they serve and they require the legal tools necessary to ensure they maintain the integrity of their members and the well-earned trust of all those they interact with,”