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  1. #21
    MembersZone Subscriber NathanWert's Avatar
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    I asked in both capacities: on duty and off duty both as an EMT doing patient care, and not doing patient care, and as a firefighter.

    I forgot to stop at the mailbox today, so the letter will have to go out tomorrow.


  2. #22
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    I have some experience with HIPAA regs and to be honest, it really doesn't specifically cover first responder's per se with the exception of EMS that have direct patient contact and treatment. It does have some training scenerio guidlelines but even that's lean.

    It allows civil damages in the event someone breeches the confidentiallity so erroring on the good side is probably the best course to take.

    I did a quick search on the documents to make sure but photography isn't even mentioned to the best of my knowldege (not to say that it's covered under something else that is in legalese).

    That said...
    The departments I have had the honor of being a member of has a basic policy of pictures are ok as long as long as they do not identify the victim in anyway and are disseminated in a tasteful manner. Recently, the Fire Marshall made it clear that any video or digital cameras would have to be collected and held as evidence if they recorded or had been active on a crime (or potential) crime scene. This was mainly a way to warn us about the helmet cams and not turning them on during an MVA or fire fatality and just letting them go w/o being selective about what images where recorded and that they could be collected for a long time if needed as evidence.

    Industry usually has a policy that no pictures can be taken onsite w/o specific permission of a manager or your a pre authorized individual and then all pictures are required to be reviewed by management before they can be released. If you happen to be a municipal responder responding on site, they can confiscate the camera and possibly impose civil action against you. Falls under the trade secret laws from what I'm told.

    I was a first responder to the BP - Texas City and recieved photos on email a day or two after the incident which was followed the next day by a frantic "delete the damn things and don't forward them to anyone!" It ended badly for this person that sent them out as they where photos taken during the SAR and initial response. They where graphic.

    I personally am not into blood and gore pics (even though most civilian friends and acquaintances feel it's helping me do my job to send them to me) unless they have some educational value and even then I am very hesitant about who sees them and the context they are presented. A) I see this crap for real so why memoralize it and B) If I was having the worst day of my life, I wouldn't want some woowoo taking pictures of me. Basic mutual respect in my opinion.

    Now this is concerning bodies and injuries, not the fire/MVA/rescue iteself. I have set up a jaws drill with a local junkyard in the past using pictures I got from a well known and respected website to simulate the extrication. These guys pulled cars from the yard and stacked them just like the pictures. Was a damned good and informative drill.

    Be safe, R2

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by NathanWert View Post
    I asked in both capacities: on duty and off duty both as an EMT doing patient care, and not doing patient care, and as a firefighter.

    I forgot to stop at the mailbox today, so the letter will have to go out tomorrow.
    Nathan, I would be very interested in seeing the reply. Please post if/when you get a response. Thanks !!!

    Be safe, R2

  4. #24
    MembersZone Subscriber NathanWert's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robertr2m View Post
    Recently, the Fire Marshall made it clear that any video or digital cameras would have to be collected and held as evidence if they recorded or had been active on a crime (or potential) crime scene. This was mainly a way to warn us about the helmet cams and not turning them on during an MVA or fire fatality and just letting them go w/o being selective about what images where recorded and that they could be collected for a long time if needed as evidence.

    Be safe, R2
    Actually, NOBODY can confiscate your camera without a court order. It's illegal. Even law enforcement can't do it. Unless you use the camera in the commission of a crime (bash someone in the head with it). They can't even make you delete your photo's. They can take you "downtown", but in most cases they end up turning you loose with all of your stuff.

    The photographers bill of rights... http://www.krages.com/ThePhotographersRight.pdf

    That said...The ethics of taking photo's on a fire scene are different from the legalities. I took photo's of a fatal car accident (drive was decapitated). However, those photo's were for accident reconstruction and Fire/State Police use only.

    Most accidents I try not to focus on the face of anyone (except rescue persons or bystanders). I will take shots of extrication, but again, I try to stay away from faces if possible.

  5. #25
    Forum Member FWDbuff's Avatar
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    Actually Nathan, this goes back to the "on duty in uniform" thing, which is what I believe robert was referring to, as he specifically mentioned helmet cams and digital pics. If the policy of their department and/or fire marshal is such, and the pics were taken while on duty, I dont think there is anything that can stop them, although if the equipment itself is privately owned, they would be hard pressed to hold on to it. I believe legally however they can hold the film and/or memory cards.

    As for the oil refinery thing, having experience working in the Petrochemical Industry in Philadelphia, I know first hand how sensitive they are to photography, and that was BEFORE 9-11.........Photos taken on private property are subject to review and approval by the property owner.

    As I stated in my first post, ANYTHING taken while standing in or on a public right-of-way is fair game when you are off duty.

    Bottom line, when you are "on duty" whether as a volunteer or a career man, the rights to the pictures becomes a whole different ball game.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by NathanWert View Post
    Actually, NOBODY can confiscate your camera without a court order. It's illegal. Even law enforcement can't do it. Unless you use the camera in the commission of a crime (bash someone in the head with it). They can't even make you delete your photo's. They can take you "downtown", but in most cases they end up turning you loose with all of your stuff.

    The photographers bill of rights... http://www.krages.com/ThePhotographersRight.pdf

    That said...The ethics of taking photo's on a fire scene are different from the legalities. I took photo's of a fatal car accident (drive was decapitated). However, those photo's were for accident reconstruction and Fire/State Police use only.

    Most accidents I try not to focus on the face of anyone (except rescue persons or bystanders). I will take shots of extrication, but again, I try to stay away from faces if possible.
    If you take a picture in a Texas refinery/facility/R and D, you are potentially committing a crime under trade secret laws.

    The "insinuation" or "underlying threat" from the FM would be that they would "ask" for possession of the camera and the memory card (since most cameras have built in memory) until the subpeona was finalized. It was followed by the Chief that allowing cameras was a training aid subject to banning on fire department contolled scenes if they became more than that and that they be made available upon request.

    Personally, you may be right... most likely are since blowing smoke and idle threats are a cop's first tactic in getting what they want/need as quickly as possible (no offense intended to our enforcement brothers). But I will err on the good side in most cases when it comes to something like this.

    Good discussion

    Be safe, R2
    Last edited by robertr2m; 04-25-2009 at 07:48 PM.

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by YoungsvilleFD View Post
    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.
    Wrong. There is no expectation of privacy while in public. That means anything in a roadway or publicly accessible area can be photographed. Publishing it is a different story.

    FB

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by NathanWert View Post
    Actually, NOBODY can confiscate your camera without a court order. It's illegal. Even law enforcement can't do it. Unless you use the camera in the commission of a crime (bash someone in the head with it). They can't even make you delete your photo's. They can take you "downtown", but in most cases they end up turning you loose with all of your stuff.

    The photographers bill of rights... http://www.krages.com/ThePhotographersRight.pdf

    That said...The ethics of taking photo's on a fire scene are different from the legalities. I took photo's of a fatal car accident (drive was decapitated). However, those photo's were for accident reconstruction and Fire/State Police use only.

    Most accidents I try not to focus on the face of anyone (except rescue persons or bystanders). I will take shots of extrication, but again, I try to stay away from faces if possible.
    Not correct. If law enforcement deems that what has been photographed can be evidence they can and will impound the camera. In practice what they will do is make copies of the photograph.

    FB

  9. #29
    Forum Member FWDbuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by firebug4 View Post
    Not correct. If law enforcement deems that what has been photographed can be evidence they can and will impound the camera. In practice what they will do is make copies of the photograph.

    FB
    NEGATIVE.

    A Search warrant, showing probable cause is needed. They may not just "impound" your camera.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    NEGATIVE.

    A Search warrant, showing probable cause is needed. They may not just "impound" your camera.

    If the officer, in good faith, believes that evidence of a crime can be destroyed before a warrant can be obtained the camera can be taken into custody. A search warrant will then be obtained to gain access to the film or in most cases now the digital memory card. This can be done under the exigent circumstances interpretation of fourth amendment law.

    Exigent circumstances are situations where immediate action is necessary. If the officer takes the time to get a warrant, evidence will be destroyed, life could be lost, or the suspect could escape. It is time consuming to get a warrant. First, the officer has to get the physical description of the place to be searched. A detailed affidavit, describing all the elements required by the court including the probable cause information, has to be crafted. In many jurisdictions, the District Attorney’s office has to review the affidavit. A judge then has to be contacted for his approval and signature. During normal business hours, this can take two to three hours. At night, or on weekends or holidays, this can take much longer. The Ninth Circuit Court in the case of United States v. McConney, 728 F.2d 1195, 1199 1984) provides a good definition of exigent circumstances-



    Emergency conditions. 'Those circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe that entry (or other relevant prompt action) was necessary to prevent physical harm to the officers or other persons, the destruction of relevant evidence, the escape of a suspect, or some other consequence improperly frustrating legitimate law enforcement efforts.'

    FB

  11. #31
    MembersZone Subscriber evfd3100's Avatar
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    In the case of a member taking a picture with his cell phone, I don't see where that serves any official purpose. I don't think I would label it "conduct unbecoming", but I can see why the nasty-gram was issued. You are there to do a job, and that job is not to take pictures with your cell phone.

    We have a photographer with our department, and she comes in handy for different events. I don't know if most firehouse management programs allow you to upload pictures to an incident report, but ours does. The pictures may come in handy down the line in a court case 2-3 years from now where you need to re-visualize the scene or something. However, in my opinion, any pictures taken at a scene should remain on firehouse workstations and if possible protected from just any/everybody accessing them. I don't think the pictures should be in anybody's personal possession.
    Assistant Chief
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    "Find a purpose in life so big, it will challenge every capacity to be at your best."

  12. #32
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    If I am on duty I usually don't have the time to pull out a camera. To busy doing one thing or another.

    Off duty as long as I am not interfering with the opperations that are ongoing well I click away. I usually do not take photo's of MVA's and not because of HIPPA issues more like patient confidentiality. House fires, car fires, even the occasional brush fire are open game in my book. So to bring a member up on charges of conduct unbecoming while they are off duty is in my opinion totally out of line.

    I can understand the chief's reasoning but when I am Joe Public what I do on my free time is my own not the chief's.

  13. #33
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    The rule at my house is that any Picture/image taken weather it be by department camera, private camera and/or cell phone is deparmental property due to the time of the picture/image is taken the member/employee is on duty and being compensated. This picture/image prior to being reused or posted/reproduced must be approved prior to it being done. I initiated this about two years ago where our departments web site had many pictures of MVC's and we had a bad fatality accident and prior to those pictures being posted on the site I made a motion to not post them and remove any other pictures/images of MVC's fatalities out of repsect for the faimilies losses. The remaining pictures/images have license plates and any other destinguishing marks blurred out prior to posting. The rest of the membership totally aggreed with me. It has detered the membership as a whole from taking pictures with their cell phones and one thing to remember is that ones cell phone can be brought into court as an exibit. Also it is a would be a felony for an image to be sent from a cell phone without the permission of all involved. Cell phones and thier contents are NOT Attorney client priveledged so be careful. You might hate to have any and all testes and images brought into court to defend on the whittness stand.
    William C. Allison II
    Fire Captain
    Tazewell County Fire-Rescue

  14. #34
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    Default recruitment and retainment

    I began to take photographs a few years ago when my son became a member of the department. I found several positive results afterwards. Many members like to see photos of themselves while in action. Even those members or our mutual aid association. Control Burns photos have also proved valuable for public relations and funding by being published in our newspapers. As the lead for our fire attack I have the primary responsibility to fight the fire and coordinate our members response, but feel the importance of documenting the efforts of the firefight as well. Very often our partners like to refer to the photos for ideas of improvement in our firefighting technique.They are begining to count of the photographs now and see them as a valuable followup in many arenas. Recruitment and retention are another example of advantages to the photos.

    We have encountered no opposition so far.
    Last edited by jam24u; 08-28-2009 at 11:54 AM.

  15. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by firebug4 View Post
    If the officer, in good faith, believes that evidence of a crime can be destroyed before a warrant can be obtained the camera can be taken into custody. A search warrant will then be obtained to gain access to the film or in most cases now the digital memory card. This can be done under the exigent circumstances interpretation of fourth amendment law.

    Exigent circumstances are situations where immediate action is necessary. If the officer takes the time to get a warrant, evidence will be destroyed, life could be lost, or the suspect could escape. It is time consuming to get a warrant. First, the officer has to get the physical description of the place to be searched. A detailed affidavit, describing all the elements required by the court including the probable cause information, has to be crafted. In many jurisdictions, the District Attorney’s office has to review the affidavit. A judge then has to be contacted for his approval and signature. During normal business hours, this can take two to three hours. At night, or on weekends or holidays, this can take much longer. The Ninth Circuit Court in the case of United States v. McConney, 728 F.2d 1195, 1199 1984) provides a good definition of exigent circumstances-



    Emergency conditions. 'Those circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe that entry (or other relevant prompt action) was necessary to prevent physical harm to the officers or other persons, the destruction of relevant evidence, the escape of a suspect, or some other consequence improperly frustrating legitimate law enforcement efforts.'

    FB
    I'm not 100% certain if you are a LEO, but if you are it's scary. There is virtually no circumstance under which you can seize a person's private property without a warrant. The exigent circumstance exception woud never be extended to this type of gestapo-like activity. You have a frightening misunderstanding of this exception. You could not possibly explain a situation where an image would be "destroyed" by the photographer. This is terrible advice that can most certainly be misconstrued by a well-intentioned fire fighter.

    The WORST thing that could come of this is if you attempted to confiscate the equipment of a credentialled press photographer. Your career will be over within days. Trust me.

    Guys: Please ignore this advice. You are never going to be in a situation where you will be able to lawfully seize the camera or film of a private citizen. Do not do it. You will absolutely live to regret it,

    The exigent circumstance exception does not apply to this type of situation. It is a complex legal treatise that takes training to understand and apply.

    Firebug; if you doubt my qualifications, email me at wendtcfi@optonline.net or ask one of the other posters.

    What is equally disturbing here is this urban myth that FD's are somehow covered under HIPPA. Unless the FD is providing physician based care, is billing the insurance co. and transmitting information electronically, HIPPA does not apply.

    The real issue that the OP has to deal with is discipline. It doesn't matter what the Chief says or why. If he doesn't want his people taking pictures, either don't take pictures or quit.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

  16. #36
    Forum Member ENG103's Avatar
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    Our ER docs ask that we take pictures of MVAs to show the severity of the crash and help determine mechanism of injury.

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