A proposal at the Capitol would make impersonating a first responder a criminal offense.

Impersonating a police officer is already a crime under state law, but State Representative Scott Gunderson (R-Waterford) says there are no penalties if someone tries to present themselves as a firefighter or EMT at the scene of an emergency. When that happens, he says it can have dire consequences because that person may not have the training needed to handle the situation.

Gunderson is sponsoring legislation that would make it a misdemeanor to impersonate a firefighter or EMT, mirroring the current law for those who lie about being a police officer. Violators could face jail time and fines of up to $10,000.

Wisconsin Fire Chiefs Association President Brad Liggett supports the proposal. He says there have been several situations across the state where impersonators have slipped in to an emergency. In some cases, they’re just trying to help. However, he also recalls situations where the fake first responder was attempting to steal medical supplies or equipment.

Liggett says the bill is not intended to go after those who offer their help to emergency responders. He says many valuable volunteers are out there, but they don’t pretend to be a fire fighter or EMT when they come out to help.

The measure is being considered by an Assembly committee.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (MP3 1:14)

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