Dallas Fire-Rescue apologizes for not allowing photos of wall-crasher

The Dallas / Fire Rescue Department has apologized to BD for actions taken by a station captain and paramedic to prevent him from photographing the treatment of a 16-year driver just moments after he slammed his car into the wall of a home at Belmont / Matilda two weekends ago.

A memo was issued to all personnel stating that case law does not allow them to prohibit the taking of any photographs in the right of way, no matter the age of the victim.

BD filed a formal complaint the morning after the incident. According to the complaint, the captain ordered BD to not take any pictures of the paramedics treating the victim (later identified as the underage driver). After BD identified himself as the local crimewatch coordinator and BarkingDogs editor, the captain again ordered him to not take any photographs, without any explanation. A paramedic treating the victim also told BD he could not take any pictures, again without any explanation.

The captain followed BD around the area, telling him I don't know what kind of camera that is or how close you have to be to get a good shot, but you are not going to take any pictures.

According to a letter from (internal affairs) Chief J. C. Adams,

... the firefighters misused their authority when they prevented you from photographing a motor vehicle accident.

Although Fire-Rescue personnel provided a reasonable explanation for their actions, this course of action was incorrect. Please be assured that the Department has taken measures to prevent this situation from occurring again in the future, and the appropriate action was taken against the parties involved.

Chief Adams told BD that the personnel, upon determining the victim was a minor, decided it was proper to prohibit BD from taking photographs. The chief explained it is not their place to settle or interfere in civil matters between the photographer and the victim (or his family), especially when the treatment is taking place on the public right of way (in this case, the grassy median).

On April 18, the Department issued a memo to all Fire-Rescue employees, which stated department policy -

As public servants, there is a low expectation of privacy when performing our duties on a public street or in a public place. Often we are subject to being photographed by camera, camera telephone, and video recorders. We have no control over this other than to perform our duties in the most professional manner.

Case law supports any individual's right to take photographs at the scene of any Fire-Rescue operation. The only consideration for the Department is the safety of all citizens at the scene of any emergency. Reasonable distance should be maintained to ensure safety and for the prevention of any interference to the Department's operation.

The Police Department is usually most effective in maintaining a perimeter; however, in lieu of the police not being on the scene, firefighters may exercise their powers of police in accordance with applicable state and local law.

By Avi S. Adelman under Public safety , Legal issues