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San Francisco Fire Chief Bans Helmet-Mounted Cameras For Firefighters 209

Posted by Soulskill
from the politics-trumps-truth dept.
New submitter niftymitch sends this quote from an article at SFGate: "San Francisco's fire chief has explicitly banned firefighters from using helmet-mounted video cameras after images from a battalion chief's Asiana Airlines crash recording became public and led to questions about first responders' actions leading up to a fire rig running over a survivor. ... Filming the scene may have violated both firefighters' and victims' privacy, Hayes-White said, trumping whatever benefit came from knowing what the footage shows. 'There comes a time that privacy of the individual is paramount, of greater importance than having a video,' Hayes-White said. Critics, including some within the department, questioned the chief's order and its timing — coming as Johnson's footage raised the possibility of Fire Department liability in the death of 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan. .. [Battalion Chief Kevin Smith, president of the employee group that includes Johnson, said,] 'The department seems more concerned with exposure and liability than training and improving efficiency. Helmet cams are the wave of the future - they can be used to improve communication at incidents between firefighters and commanders.'"
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San Francisco Fire Chief Bans Helmet-Mounted Cameras For Firefighters

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  • Hah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sparticus789 (2625955) on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @03:56PM (#44622815) Journal

    Since when did government care about the right to privacy?

  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @03:57PM (#44622825)

    This is all about not creating evidence that could cost the government money.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @03:57PM (#44622845)

    No, you don't understand. The people have privacy, not government officials acting in their official capacity. The firefighter has no expectation of privacy when they are performing their official duties. This camera ban seems like an attempt to jump on the wave of NSA hate in order to provide cover for future incompetence.

  • Re:Hah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @03:59PM (#44622873)

    When it became so very important to them...when using it to justify not having any record or documentation of their misdeeds.

    Just like everything else people in power pretend to care about.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @04:02PM (#44622897)

    If privacy is what matters, then require that any firefighter with a camera keep the memory locked in a secure location at the station. Simply banning the cameras, especially after this incident, requires that they don't want to be subject to turning over any evidence. It's class CYA, plain and simple. I don't know who has the power to argue against this. These guys are union; but the union reps can surely see that such things might be used against them as well. They'll probably go along with the ban. The politicians are paid by the unions. Nobody really stands for the people here the way I see it. The people would, IMHO, best be served by having as much information as possible provided that it's properly secured, which is really not that hard to do.

  • by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @04:04PM (#44622913)

    Fuck you, you fucking fucks!

    The only reason you could want to ban cameras is to hide your mistakes. You have no expectation of privacy in public, especially when you're working to protect and serve the public. If anything, this shows why cameras should be MANDATORY . With cameras on every responder and 360 degrees of coverage from the top of every vehicle. If you screw up, you need to know it, determine liability, see what led to the mistake(s), and develop ways to avoid screwing up like that in the future.

    SF's fire chief needs a swift kick in the groin.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @04:13PM (#44623039) Journal
    Given that a firefighters' job description includes "Rush into assorted private buildings with all due speed and an axe because they are on fire and/or contain somebody the paramedics are performing emergency maintenance on" there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about the process for handling some of the footage they generate (I, for one, would be deeply vexed if somebody's helmet-cam of 'sleepy-looking guy runs out of house in underwear' turned me into a youtube star...); but the notion that those concerns rise to the level of banning cameras seems like transparent CYA, especially given the training utility of having a record of past fuckups to work with.
  • Re:Hah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @04:21PM (#44623127) Homepage
    They only care about it when it shows their incompetence or leads to a lawsuit.
  • by aitikin (909209) on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @04:23PM (#44623149)
    Yes, but if I'm sleeping naked in my bedroom and my house is on fire and a firefighter comes in to rescue me, I sure as hell do not want footage of me naked being in government computers. This would fall under MY privacy or the individual who the government agent is trying to save's privacy. I'd say that, in general, emergency response (firefighters and paramedics), really probably shouldn't be filming everything.
  • Re:Hah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by omnichad (1198475) on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @04:31PM (#44623241) Homepage

    Since when is having a camera for private recording a privacy issue? It's the stupid act of sharing those images publicly that they should be worried about.

  • I guess... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @04:40PM (#44623357)

    when they say "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" only applies to us private citizens. What's good for the goosed is not, they're arguing good for their gander, and so ironically, they want to hide behind "privacy".

    We must respect the privacy of the girl who was run over by the fire truck, (or future victims like her, more to the point) by NOT recording events that could facilitate knowing how she died, or how to prevent other such tragedies in the future. Apparently her 'right to privacy' trumps the right of society for justice, or government accountability, (including government employees).

    By this same piss-poor argument, I'm sure a number of people in the LAPD wished someone had respected Rodney King's PRIVACY by not videotaping his brutal beating and (let's face fact, folks,) attempted murder by LAPD thugs... how much better things would be not only for Rodney King, (who would consequently have been denied justice... oh, wait...) but no one would even know the full extent of what happened unless they happened to be there personally.

    Someone please make sure whoever is San Francisco's fire chief's boss hears this argument, or THAT person's boss, etc., that this is just a step in the direction of banning video footage being taken AT ALL, with the attendant even free-er reign on the part of government and their employees to misbehave while being paid to do what for want of a better word, let's just call THEIR JOBS.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @04:42PM (#44623375)
    You'll understand if I don't accept advice about HIPAA from someone who can't even get the acronym right.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @04:57PM (#44623539)

    Really? Because when my house is on fire they're allowed to point their helmet cams at my dick as far as I'm concerned, as long as they point the water hose at my house!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @04:58PM (#44623555)

    Seven FOIA requests and a wad of cash, and I was able to see my autistic son being abused by government employees.

    I am grateful for the cameras.

  • by coyote_oww (749758) on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @05:05PM (#44623613)
    To get at fire inside the aircraft, positioning near the aircraft is necessary. They are going to have to move around.

    The real issue is why a girl was left lying on the tarmac by first responders. The general rule is RECEO
    Rescue - get any people to safety, first-aid as needed
    Exposures - secure/protect any nearby structures or other risks
    Confinment - prevent the spread of the fire, limit it's growth
    Extinguish - put out the fire
    Overhaul - go over the scene to ensure no remaining embers/restart risk, begin investigation

    You did these things in this order, back in the day. Someone in need of rescue preempted putting out a fire. So, I would have expected a body on the ground to get priority attention. Someone(s) should have had her on a stretcher and away from the scene as quickly as possible, or at least posted a person to ensure she didn't come to further harm in the melee. Off-hand, it seems the excitement of the fire got priority. After she was covered in foam, it was near inevitable she'd get hit by something moving around the scene.

    But firefighting rules have changed over the years, so what do i know. Wait for the investigation, then decide whether to get angry or not.
  • by linuxwrangler (582055) on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @05:11PM (#44623665)

    As others have pointed out, the original story is very out-of-date and ignores the fact that the policy has been in-place for a long time.

    Privacy vs. public access is not completely black and white. Just a few issues that could be reasonably debated (not on the Interwebs, of course, where no reasonable debate occurs) are:

    Should firefighters be rescuing people and fighting fires or d*cking around with their GoPro to get cool Youtube videos?

    As medical responders, what about HIPPA? Does a person have the right to call for help secure in the knowledge that the rescuer won't be spreading helmet-cam footage of their nude mangled body across the Internet or news?

    I see some similar issues with radio traffic and release of 911 recordings. While I enjoy checking the local goings-on with a scanner I wonder if "...respond to 1234 Main Apartment 3 for a 34 year old female suicide attempt via overdose..." is broadcasting just a bit too much personal medical info.

    And don't get me started on search-warrants. The cops *love* to issue press-releases about all the stuff they have recovered even though nobody has been charged or convicted. A couple bricks of .22, a Playboy and the pills from your doctor are "drugs, pornography and thousands of rounds of ammunition" by the time it hits the blotter. It just a bit too much power to smear someone's reputation without trial for my taste.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @05:16PM (#44623707)

    America today is a dog protecting Europe from its own violent adventures in Imperialism.

    America is protecting Europe from American violent adventures in imperialism?

  • by quantaman (517394) on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @05:28PM (#44623819)

    Yes, but if I'm sleeping naked in my bedroom and my house is on fire and a firefighter comes in to rescue me, I sure as hell do not want footage of me naked being in government computers. This would fall under MY privacy or the individual who the government agent is trying to save's privacy. I'd say that, in general, emergency response (firefighters and paramedics), really probably shouldn't be filming everything.

    And what if you felt the firefighter did something very inappropriate when they found you naked and you were looking for proof?

    To an extent the current issue is that the tech is immature and departments are doing their own ad-hoc deployments.

    Done properly the video stored on the memory card is encrypted and access to the keys is strictly controlled. The only way anything gets decrypted is in response to a court order or at least an official logged procedure so neither officers or the public have to worry about random people snooping through the videos.

  • by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @06:07PM (#44624265) Journal
    You Americans are not paying for European defense. You are paying for defense of American interests in Europe. Troops are stationed in friendly countries simply because they are within striking distance of unfriendly countries.
  • Re:Hah (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 20, 2013 @06:46PM (#44624675)

    "So if you read all my emails/texts/communications and have my phones tapped and use my webcam to spy on me, why exactly can't cops be forced to wear cameras to help ensure they stay honest?" "Well, heh, you see, hahaha....it would violate your privacy and the privacy of the cop if they had to walk around with cameras on them. The info might get leaked, no matter how secure it is."

A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours. -- Milton Berle

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