The city of Washington, DC is using firefighters as an impromptu unarmed police force, deploying them to patrol high crime areas. So what happens is that the unarmed firefighters are increasingly looked upon as an extension of the police department.
The one thing that allows me to enter high crime areas is the knowledge that I am not a cop, and I am not there to bust anyone or take sides, I am just there to take you to the hospital. Once we as fire and EMS are viewed as the enemy, we will be treated like the enemy. An unarmed, relatively defenseless one. At least I can take comfort knowing that if my agency decides to enact a similar policy, I can legally be armed while doing so (even if it will likely get me fired.)
I would also like to point out that the program employs 14,000 people for six weeks, and was $30 over budget in 2008. That works out to $357 per week per worker that the project was over budget. The youths in this program work 16 hours per week. The full cost of the program is $55 million (including the $30 million overrun). That works out to $40.92 per hour per worker costs the taxpayer.
What are the taxpayers getting for that money? One of the jobs is that the kids are being paid to paint pictures on the sides of buildings using spray paint. We are paying these kids to paint graffiti, and demanding that firefighters then follow them around to make sure that they stay out of trouble.