Today’s Burning Question: We were returning from an alarm and we saw a car driving erratically. We were afraid the car was going to kill someone – so we turned on our emergency lights and siren and the car pulled over for us. We detained the driver until police could arrive. Could we get in trouble?
Answer: Firefighters have the ability to effect a "Citizen's Arrest", just like any other person may. In most states a citizen's arrest may be made when someone has committed a misdemeanor in your presence or you have probable cause to believe the person has committed a felony. That is the good news. There is also some more good news. You also have the right to use reasonable force to effect the arrest.
The bad news is while police officers have liability protection in the event they make a good-faith mistake, firefighters do not. In other words – any arrest you make you had best be 100% in the right. If you are wrong – even if you act in good faith, you could be liable for false arrest.
As for using a fire truck's status as an emergency vehicle to pull over a vehicle… is that the use of "reasonable force"?