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Chief says taking pics is conduct unbecoming

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  • Chief says taking pics is conduct unbecoming

    I work for a paid department with 40 members in Mississippi. Recently a lieutenant complained that a firefighter took a photo using his cellphone camera on the scene of a MVA. The chief issued a memo in response saying a new policy had been implemented that any member taking a photograph using a cellphone or any type camera at any scene our department was working whether it be a fire, MVA, anything, whether member was on duty or off duty, will be disciplined as conduct unbecoming an officer of the department and face suspension. When pointed out that any member of the public can photograph anything in public view he stated that we were covered under HIPA and could be civilly liable if a patient was photographed. I think he's wrong but who am I to argue with the chief? What do y'all think? I thought taking pictures at scenes was alright as long as it was done tastefully and not done to purposefully show victims or blood and gore. Does anyone else have policies like this? What about the unbecoming charge threatened? Is simply taking a picture couduct unbecoming an officer?

  • #2
    In a word - Depends

    If the photo shows a person or anything that could identify a person (licence plate for example) it is common decency to get their written permission before taking the shot. If you can't get this for whatever reason, then put the camera away. Simple.

    Comment


    • #3
      we'll see

      I just think taking a picture of a house on fire is not conduct unbecoming, forget the MVA's. Just pictures of fires are actually useful. How interesting would Firehouse Magazine be if every department had the "no photograph" rule? I re-read his memo and he says that only the incident commander can give permission for someone to take pictures. I'll just start establishing incident command when I arrive on scene and then give myself permission.

      Comment


      • #4
        I'm with the chief on this one. I'm not sure about the "conduct unbecoming" part, but the release of fire department information from an incident should be controlled.

        Pictures taken ( and I'm in favor of taking a lot of pics ) from a department camera should be reviewed before release, ensuring that they don't contain anything personal or otherwise distasteful. If you don't agree with me that's fine, a lot of lawyers out there would love to prove you wrong so that they might get a paycheck.

        As for HIPPA, you may or may not be covered. I don't know your operation so I cannot comment. My dept is not but in the interests of good taste and preserving the privacy of those we deal with we work under the same privacy rules HIPPA requires.
        We do not rise to the occasion. We fall back to our level of training.

        Comment


        • #5
          The Chief is right, the wrong photo can spell disaster for the Dept. But he's taking it too far. To bar all photos by virtually all personnel is nonsense.

          I keep a digicam with me almost every shift. I use it to document any interesting calls we run. But I only break it out after all the patients are clear of the scene, or my work in fighting fire are done.

          Most Stations in my dept have a large board that they tape photos too. It gets pretty crazy. Training exercises, vehicles overturned, funny moments in the firehouse, crazier moments out having fun. They all make it to "The Board."
          The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of 'liberalism' they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened. --Norman Mattoon Thomas, 6 time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America

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          • #6
            It is simple, the chief is right. Call it the rule of 5.
            He who has 5 makes the rules

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            • #7
              I work at a health clinic and as far as the HIPPA thing that is not totally true. HIPPA is about protecting patient info such as socials and stuff. kjohn23 i totally agree with you because at the end of the day who is in charge even if you like it or not. But i wouldn't say it would be a hippa violating to take a photo on a scene. And if it where just look at how many people would be violating it just on this website.

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              • #8
                For us, We cannot take photos of anything that involves a patient. In addition it is a law in our county that NO ONE may take a photo of a death scene whether a body is there or not, only the coroner may photograph this. (That means the car, the scene, the house, the whatever). Its all about patient privacy.

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                • #9
                  pics of wrecks or fires

                  these pictures are valuable to the department when critique time comes...BUT never take a picture of a wreck while the patient is still in or around the car.......patient must be in ambulance before the camera comes out.............and on the fire ground...we take all the pictures we can get....but all pictures are on the department camera and come back to the station for review by the chief officers.......they do not find their way to the tv stations for instant reporting....

                  If it's done correctly---------then it's very valuable.....

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    What's important?

                    Originally posted by altonscott View Post
                    I just think taking a picture of a house on fire is not conduct unbecoming, forget the MVA's. Just pictures of fires are actually useful. How interesting would Firehouse Magazine be if every department had the "no photograph" rule? I re-read his memo and he says that only the incident commander can give permission for someone to take pictures. I'll just start establishing incident command when I arrive on scene and then give myself permission.
                    So taking photographs is more important than the incident?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Here's my advice,

                      If there is a policy no matter what, and the Chief spells it out, then the catch all "conduct unbecoming" will catch anything he wants.
                      Trust me on this I spent the latter half of last year fighting a "conduct unbecoming" charge and I didn't get disciplined, but it's on my record.
                      Pretty much covers what ever they want,

                      Good luck
                      Josh Ball
                      FF/EMT - Zoneton Fire Protection District
                      PSO II - Louisville International Airport
                      Deputy - Bullitt County Sheriff's Office

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I think we all agree that photos and video can be a valuable debriefing and training tool- at least insofar as what I've read above.

                        The way it's best been described to me in the past was minimizing the opportunity for misperception. Sure, we have a camera on the rig for the officer or designated person to take angle shots of the wreck once the patient is clear and the job is over. If one person is responsible for it, at least we can be accountable for that. Make sure that it's written up in the SOG/Ps that this is an expected task so that if litigation for whatever reason ensues there is a list of protocols that legitimizes it.

                        Unfortunately, no matter what we do, we're always going to irritate SOMEONE- someone's always going to have that complaint regardless of whether or not it's because a crew wants to go do some PT at the local soccer field, go and sit down at a local restaurant for lunch or wash the trucks outside in the sun. Frick... WE even get in trouble for parking in the fire lane!

                        I agree with the Chief on this one too... the more time spent dangling on a call is time that a crew spends on a highway, or deployed on a call when it should be on its way back to quarters to get the rig back in service. It looks hoakie to have a bunch of guys even HAVING their cells on a call at all, nevermind taking photos with them. People take enough offense at the black humour that we suppress until we're on the rig... nevermind taking cellphone photos of a fatality accident. How does the saying go? No pictures no proof? Well... now they have pictures.

                        It's also VERY hard to control photos if they're taken from a phone or on a person by person basis... Sure- YOU don't have any ill intent... not always the case. Nothing spices up a facebook page like a few exciting extrication photos and the last structure you attended.


                        Anyways- I see both sides of it too... but the more professional side is winning out on this one. Maybe having a helmet cam is the answer? Unfortunately, those images can be used for good AND bad. Scan some youtube videos of bad driving... would HATE to have that "riding" on my shoulders.
                        Ian "Eno" McLeod

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          the story goes a man commited suicide the coroner and the coroners assistant came and took photos of the body.well the assistant took a picture of it with her phone and started sending it to people. it got back to a guy that i work with at the station.. The man that commited suicide just happened to be his uncle. they traced the picture back to the assistant and he sued her they recently settled out of court for 680,000 dollars because it was so emotionaly troubling. he is now going to therapy and couciling 2 days a week and has been on stress leave for 9 months. think about it when you want to take that picture.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Chief is right

                            I'm going with the chief on this one too. You cant take pictures of anything without written consent. Besides how useful is pictures of an MVA to a firefighter? Every MVA is different.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by altonscott View Post
                              I work for a paid department with 40 members in Mississippi. Recently a lieutenant complained that a firefighter took a photo using his cellphone camera on the scene of a MVA. The chief issued a memo in response saying a new policy had been implemented that any member taking a photograph using a cellphone or any type camera at any scene our department was working whether it be a fire, MVA, anything, whether member was on duty or off duty, will be disciplined as conduct unbecoming an officer of the department and face suspension. When pointed out that any member of the public can photograph anything in public view he stated that we were covered under HIPA and could be civilly liable if a patient was photographed. I think he's wrong but who am I to argue with the chief? What do y'all think? I thought taking pictures at scenes was alright as long as it was done tastefully and not done to purposefully show victims or blood and gore. Does anyone else have policies like this? What about the unbecoming charge threatened? Is simply taking a picture couduct unbecoming an officer?
                              There has to be more to this story. You are saying that this policy states anyone on your department is facing suspension if they take photos of "ANY" call?

                              So photos of at a fire investigation are subject to this policy? Photos documenting HazMat response and what made it or did not make it to the storm drain is subject to said policy.... HIPPA is for medical information not fire scenes.

                              There is a reason for the saying "Never say Never."

                              Comment

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