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What gives? No outrage over ghoulish photographers shooting bodies. Has something changed in year since Connecticut trooper blasted cameraman?

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Since our first year of publishing STATter911.com we have had a variety of postings about cameras at the scene of emergency incidents. With it has been an ongoing conversation with you, our readers, about the ethics, rights and responsibilities of the press, public, victims, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics and police officers.

That conversation was bumped to a new level a year ago this month with the video above of a trooper with the Connecticut State Police screaming at a freelance news photographer shooting a fatal car fire from behind a guard rail on I-95. There were 165 comments, many of them from me, as we went back and forth over the actions of the trooper and the man behind the camera. (Click here and scroll down for the comments.)

Many of you, like the trooper, thought the cameraman was a ghoul and I was equally evil for defending him. I asked a lot of questions from those who took the trooper's side and blasted the videographer and me.

I tried to understand what was so offensive about the video. As you look at the raw footage above, the only thing you see is a burning car. As I have asked from the start, since when is shooting a car fire that shuts down a highway taboo?

In fact, maybe something is wrong with me (many of you have said as much), but the only thing I found offensive were the actions of the trooper. Not only was the trooper rude and insensitive to someone doing their job, he overstepped his bounds, acting as an editor or censor of what the public is allowed to see. Many of you made excuses for the trooper and I agreed it is just possible he was having a bad day. As for the videographer, despite all the name calling by our readers, no one pointed to any evidence that he didn't do his job professionally and treat the trooper with respect.

Taking in all of the comments and studying them closely, I came to my own conclusion of what was actually fueling the outrage. Despite what many wrote, this was not about being sensitive to the victim and her family. Though I do think that some of you sincerely believe in your hearts that was the case. I contended then and am even more convinced now (based on what I am about to show you) that most of those defending the trooper are willing to let a uniformed agent of our government decide what's appropriate for us to see, First Amendment be damned, because of a hatred of, or bias against, the press.

I have known for a long time how despised the news media is, but reading the reaction to this video actually made me fear a bit for the future of  our country. Even if I strongly disagreed with the actions of the photographer, I wouldn't want the police or any other government agency to be the decider of what we can see in a public place.

Besides the First Amendment issue, I also believe that there is a natural tendency for people to side with the authority figure. He's a cop, so he must be right. I get that, but again respectfully disagree that our government is always right.

So, why am I bringing this up now?

Take a look at the videos below. All have been posted on STATter911.com since October and were widely viewed, prompting many comments. Each one involves fire fatalities or critical injuries. Two videos show firefighters rescuing small children from burning homes. One clip is of a man being pulled from his burning home. Another has scenes of a man who later died collapsed outside a burning hotel. There is one showing firefighters attacking a fire with three bodies still inside. And there is also a video that shows efforts to recover a firefighter who died in the line of duty.

To me, each of these videos is a hell of a lot more graphic than what was shown in the Connecticut car fire video. All of the videos, except two, show victims in cardiac or respiratory arrest being treated by fire and EMS.

Despite the many comments posted with each of the videos, there is no one complaining that these photographers, like the one in Connecticut, are ghouls. We have no one screaming about victims' rights or HIPAA violations. And no one is telling me what a bad man I am for running these videos. Why is that? How can that be?

How can shooting a car fire bring such outrage while showing actual fire victims or being up close and personal at a fatal fire not even bring a squeak?

I believe the answer is pretty simple. In these videos there was no authority figure on the scene, like the police officer in Connecticut, overstepping his or her bounds and fueling the fire and passion against the photographers.

What I attempt to do with every conflict I see or am involved in, is to boil down what it's really about. Despite all of the claims last year of protecting the victim (which I believe those in public safety can do without trampling on our freedoms), I am left with the conclusion that, without someone yelling at a photographer, or reminding us of our hatred of the press, we generally just sit back and watch these videos without a great deal of disgust, anger and outrage. Am I wrong?

December 10, 2011: Two children rescued in Lake Station, Indiana. Mother died.

December 9, 2011: Two children rescued in Wilmington, Delaware.

October 9, 2011: Fatal hotel fire in Whitehall, Pennsylvania.

November 30, 2011: Man rescued from home in Whitehall, Pennsylvania.

December 12, 2011: Triple fatal fire in Stevens, Pennsylvania.

December 8, 2011: Firefighter Jon Davies killed in Worcester, Massachusetts fire.

Comments - Add Yours

  • Michael Rinaldi

    Dave, the point many may see in the issue is not what you might think.  At face value, there is no difference between a bystander recording firefighters making a rescue of a human being and a news correspondent recording the scene of a deadly collision.  The element in the difference is the perception of the recorder among those around them.  The news media bears their share of responsibility for that image, not entirely albeit.  It’s my perception that most of your readers would agree to the permissibility of the media to record news as it unfolds if they are honest with themselves.  It seems that the average news reader feels they need to be “in the know” at every moment which is enhanced by the craze of social media.  That’s our world today and I think emergency services in general and the news media will forever be an education in progress in regards to that.   It’s also my perception, that when the officer says, move along… that means move along, now, not when you want to.  A parent demands the same respect from their children.  The news correspondent doesn’t have to agree, but should listen to the officer.  Most likely they have their footage anyway.  Take the issue to those who are in charge to make the necessary changes at the right time and place.  The collision scene is not that time or that place.   Thanks for what you do. 

    • dave statter

      Michael,

      Thanks for your opinion. I do agree we have become a society where we want to know everything this instant. The mainstream media is only playing catch up to what citizens are doing on their own.

      I don’t want anyone to think the main purpose of this latest posting on the subject is about anyone’s right to shoot. In my book and the laws of the land, most recently upheld by the a federal appeals court, that isn’t even an issue. The public and the press have a right to shoot anything in public view in an area that is accessible to the public and those in public safety have no right to interfere.

      As for respect, I think you are more likely to get it and have some control (a boss to complain to) from the mainstream press than the average citizen with a cell phone.

      My point was and always has been that the photographer in Connecticut and the others who took the pictures and videos I mentioned are generally not ghouls. They are documenting something they have the right to document. All I was doing is pointing out the hypocrisy of being so outrage over the Connecticut photographer and no one gives a damn about the other cases. To me it speaks volumes about the real motive.

      Just calling it as I see it.

      Statter

  • http://www.sconfire.com Grant Mishoe

    Well put Dave! I have run into this issue with a photo on my site of a fatal MVA where the victim was fatally burned. I have a cell phone photo of the burning car, at night, on a bridge with a tag line of "Charleston, SC – Fatal MVA on Ravenel Bridge NB. According to the coroner, the fatality was significantly burned which will making identity more "difficult"."
    A Fire Captain from Asheville Fire wrote " the headline here PLUS you post a photo of it early in the event–that's PRETTY SORRY REPORTING IN MY BOOK !
    Look at the photo and make a judgement for yourself. http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150455294419601&set=pu.149735274600&type=1&theater
    I do not see anything different with this than of a fatal MVA or fatal house fire.
    People denegrated the photographer for not "doing more". You see the fire condition and you tell me if a layman, without any fire extinguisher, is even going to attempt to get close, let alone try to pull someone out of burning, twisted wreck. 
    I would be interested in others thoughts on this.
    Thanks!
    Grant Mishoe, Editor – SConFire.com

    • dave statter

      Thanks Grant. Hope you are well.

  • http://firecritic.com Fire Critic

    So you are mad that you haven't gotten comments about the videos enciting a viral effect and getting you more hits? I can understand that. I am not sure everyone else will though. 
    Like you pointed out, the biggest difference is that the videos above are videos captured of fires. 
    The one with the trooper is entirely different. It is about the censorship by the trooper. 
    I think you nailed it on the head, but trying to evoke the same emotion on these other videos may not be the right thing to do. 
    Given, some might not like the videos above, firefighters can learn a lot from them. Either way, no one is going to stop the average joe from taking video of fire scenes. 

    • dave statter

      My dear son THE Fire Critic. As always we appreciate your valued insight into these imporant topics. But I think the purpose of this post went over your head, so to speak.

      No I am not mad that I didn’t get comments. I think it is absolutely wonderful those type of comments weren’t there. In fact, my theory all along is, without the cops to rally the venom, most people on their own aren’t leading the charge about victims’ rights. The recent videos are just proving my point.

      All the nasty comments directed at the Connecticut photographer (with not even a bit of evidence he even challenged the trooper) over shooting a car fire where you see no body, with no one seeming to care when all these other videos are posted, is hypocritical. To me it speaks volumes about the real motive of those comments.

      It may have been lost on you, but I am in no way tyring to “evoke the same emotion”. I am trying to have a discussion over the real reasons for the outrage when the would be censors do speak up. And I think I am pretty damn close.

      As for your comment, “no one is going to stop the average joe from taking video of fire scenes”. I beg to differ. There are constantly people out there in public safety and as part of the public trying to do just that. Have you not seen the videos we’ve posted in the past? And if you don’t speak up and defend those rights they are lost.

      Statter

  • Texas Gordo

    Dave (AKA Mr. 1st Amendment Lover)
    I am deeply upset by your post.
    The use of calm and rational logic to put forth an argument in support of 1st Amendment rights is a cheap shot.  How dare you sir! How dare you!
    I will continue to resort to hyperbolic and bombastic statements in my posts. In the future, please refrain from pointing out in such a clear and concise manner how I and others contradict ourselves.
    I am a shallow, small-minded, and thin-skinned individual. It is difficult for me to keep both feett in the Dark Ages when you insist on dragging me into the light.
    The day we allow logic and civility to takeover the internet will be a dark one indeed. You are weakening the youth of America with your blind allegiance to the Constitution.
    Peace and joy in the New Year for all your readers.
    Keep fighting the good fight.

    • dave statter

      Texas Gordo,

      So sorry. I won’t let calm and rational logic rear its ugly head again on this blog. I promise.

      Hope you are well. Peace and joy right back at you. Always good to hear from you.

      Statter

  • emtd65

    I agree with you !  Where there is "intimidation," by an "authority figure."

  • http://lonelyemt.blogspot.com hilinda

    Important issue, Dave.
    Although there may be other issues involved for some viewers and readers, I fundamentally agree with your observations. There is a huge tendency for people to side with an authority figure or uniformed person, whether or not that person is in the right.
    It makes it very challenging, indeed, when that person is NOT right. Pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes is still very unpopular.
    Thank you for posting this.

    • dave statter

      Thank you Hilinda.

  • Fire21

    I am old enough and was taught that when a police officer talks, you listen and do what he tells you.  I know that's outdated, but that's the generation I'm from.  If I had been the videographer with the car fire, I'd have moved!!  If I recall correctly, the car fire video  was introduced by you with a criticism of the officer.  With the other videos here, nothing has been said by anyone about whether the photographer should have been there or not…they were just videos shot mostly by bystanders.  Usually it takes a comment by someone to start an argument.

    • dave statter

      Where is there indication he didnt move or obey?

      • Fire21

        Yes, right on the video.  He zoomed back, panned very slightly to the left, and the video ended.  Hard to tell if he obeyed or not.

        • dave statter

          Fire 21,

          So why do we assume, with no evidence, that the photographer is a ghoul and is wrong, but give a pass to a trooper who is acting quite unprofessional and overstepping his authority (ordering someone to turn off their camera)?

          It’s because, as I pointed out, we hate the press and our willing to let our own rights be eroded to see those awful ghouls get what’s coming to them.

          Statter

    • dave statter

      Fire21,

      The comments were quite nasty to the photographer even though there is no evidence he did anything but shut down his camera and move on. I saw not a bit of evidence that indicates the photographer did anything but handle his job in a professional manner. He showed up and shot a car fire that shut down an Interstate highway. Period. A trooper, either just having a bad day (for any of a variety of reasons), or who just hates the press, yelled at him, stepped beyond his authority and acted quite unprofessional.

      A great many of the comments, in addition to making the argument that he was ghoul for showing up and shooting the auto fire in the first place, went on to say the trooper has every right in the world to tell us what we can and can’t shoot and when we can and can’t turn on our cameras. Many of the comments made impassioned pleas about victims’ rights. They told me by shooting that burning car they were violating the privacy of the person who died.

      My point is not to really argue the First Amendment issues on this one. I have done that many times and a federal appeals court has again recently made those rights of the public and the press with cameras very clear.

      My point is to address the hypocrisy. How come victims’ rights weren’t mentioned with any of these other recent videos I pointed out (and there are plenty more I can show beyond those six)? How come no one said a word about the ghoulish nature of any of those photographers?

      I say the reason is without a police officer or other official ranting and raving it really isn’t an issue. The real issue isn’t victims’ rights. The real issue is we hate the press and it’s good to see law enforcement give those ghouls a verbal beating while trampling all over our rights.

      I am not encouraging anyone to defy law enforcement. But I do encourage all to be vigilant about our First Amendment rights before we lose them.

      Statter

    • http://emtmedicalstudent.wordpress.com/ Joe Paczkowski

      So, you're suggesting that a police officer is right 100% of the time and shouldn't be questioned? Police officers can do no wrong? If I was the photographer in that, and the only reason being given for being requested to move was "we don't like what you're filming," then I would have gladly been arrested and enjoyed my civil rights law suit. The police do not get veto power over what is filmed based on content, and that comes from the most basic set of laws governing this country.

  • Legeros

    Please don't trample on my whites. The cost of soap is too high these days.
      
    Good post dave, Dave. Maybe you'll get called a ghoul before it's all over.
      
    More thoughts later.
     

  • Chip

    Let's carry this further. The whole coverage of 9/11. This should been 100% censored from the MOMENT just before impact til the LAST absolutely positively identified human remains were recovered. ALL images to this date should be PURGED from all media as they are of such intense memories of the mass deaths ( premediated mass murders) and all the heavy emotions and trama that it drags up. Well, you and I know all about that…..
     Where were / was the policing of all this media at the time?
    OR is this the FALLOUT because of 9/11 and it's coverage / images?
    Sorry. this has been what this issue brings up in my mind. For some time now!
    My on the job experience has always been when I had asked a photojournalist / photog to SHOW SOME RESPECT  I always  received full cooperation.
     I guess times really have changed. People / attitudes have changed.  Had one very violent  MVA  and the one passenger was in roadway in multiple locations. A local "photojournalist" was on scene when I arrived doing his job and immediately approached him announced my office and very calmly and politely asked him if this was someone close to him if this was what he would appreciate that someone  some where had these photo's of the persons remains to look at and view when ever for whatever reason. I asked for him to show some decency for the deceased and those in his family.  Film  was destroyed.  I NEVER had to THREATEN, SCREAM or whatever when things of this type presented themselves more times than I want to remember.
    .   Times, they have a CHANGED, I guess!
     Now we have the intense and immediate transmission link , the INTERNET,  where NOTHING is private, where sensitivity is out the window, concern for others is not EVEN given a thought. The more graphic the better if the loss of life is linked . Internet thrives on this.  I think a a lot of police and fire dept's know this and use it as a reason for there responses like this, maybe?
    Oh well just my 2 cents.   And so it goes…. Thanks.

    • Legeros

      Chip, your statment "I asked for him to show some decency for the deceased and those in his family" perhaps hits on a key concept in this discussion:  decency.
        
      Couple angles come to decent. Do we collectively agree or differ on how public photography in such situations is decent or indenct? Or does that come later, in the usage of the images? Next, there's the enforcement or legislation of decency. And so on.
       
      Times might be a-changing, but I think the public's appetite for destruction has always been pretty rich. Witness the far more graphic images and narrative details of past decades and eras.
       
      The new villain on the stage might simply be the technology. The everywhere cameras.
       

      • Legeros

        Should read: couple angles come to MIND.  Typos, now *those* are indecent.

    • dave statter

      Chip,

      Really? Are you pulling my leg?

      What you are talking about is quite common in some countries. Is that what really want in the US? You want that kind of censorhip and control by the government so they let us see only what they want us to see about 9-11? Is that your definition of freedom that so many people have lost their lives fighting for?

      And yes, you are correct. There is a big price to pay about privacy with the advent of the Internet. The answer may be to have the government just shut it down.

      Statter

  • CHAOS

    Dave, I'd say that with most of the videos you post there is usually enough of the "what in the hell are they doing" material to keep us occupied, until, of course, Barney Fife on a power trip steps in front of the camera and launches into his personal interpretation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  Again, much like the firefreaks who devise interesting methods of performing fairly simple fireground tasks, these Barneys are usually wrong…and usually waaaay wrong.  I especially like when the LEO during his tirade offers up how busy he is saving the planet at that particular scene, but can't seem to grasp the obvious tidbit that he can't be THAT busy if he has time to spend 10 minutes peppering everyone holding a camera.  I really can't understand the ones who will pick out the ones holding cameras while all around them are folks just standing around watching.
    A police commissioner in a major northeast city just recently put out a release stating that his officers can expect to be on video any time they are working in a public location, and should not be bothered by it, since it is perfectly legal.  And, IMHO, anyone that is standing outside an established and marked perimeter is well within their rights to video, tweet, smile, smirk, snort, play mind tricks, or whatever else legally floats their boat. And, as far as those incidents where people got screamed at for having mingled in amongst the FFs & Po-Po, how is it their fault that none of the educated people in uniform had the sense to "put up the fence" if it is such an unsafe location for mere mortals?

    • dave statter

      Amen CHAOS. Amen.

      Statter

  • Anonymous

    Dave:
    Usually you do a good job of presenting stories.  Don't try to manufacture one.

    • dave statter

      Anonymous,

      Not manufacturing a story. Adding some facts to a conversation, along with an analysis. It’s what I do. Sorry to offend.

      Statter

  • Bud

    Dave,
    I applaud your making the 1st amendment fight a "cause de celeb" by adding your high profile name into the fight. It's right up there with Larry Flint and Howard Stern (This is a compliment to you).
    I believe the reason fire, police and EMS personnell don't like photogs filming scenes of death is because we in general follow the rules of society, both written and unwritten. One of those rules is to respect the dead. I guess we in turn "expect" others to follow those same rules. When others such as the general public don't share that same respect for the dead, personnell tend to "advise" the public on fatal scene etiquette.
    We as fire, police and EMS personnell also have chosen a proffession that makes us "protectors of the people". We all tend to be people who want to help people, and protect them from harm. Even after they are dead, personnell are merely still trying to protect the dead, protect their right to decency and protect their families right to not have their loved ones wind up on you tube or the top 10 text message/cell photo of the day.
    I use this analogy once again…if a fire/police/EMS person was at their family Chrsitmas party and was took 300 photos, then reviewed them the next day. In one photo, Grandma had a wadrobe malfunction and her boob was exposed—we would delete the photo asap…we would not go to Walmart and make up photo Christmas cards and send them to the whole family and everybody who goes to Grandmas church.
    Unfortunately for the press, they have members of the photography community who take boob photos and death photos and publish them in the "scandal rags" and the local media for all to see (with a small blackout tag over the exposed area) but published none the less. These photogs give press a bad name all over the place and lead to distrust of the medias ability to "self-censor" themselves. And even by the press's self proclaimed ability to "self sensor" what is appropriate and what is not IS its own form of censorship to the public viewing what they show. If censorship is bad, then the media should never "self-censor"–let the viewer decide what they want to view or not view.
    In closing, as a whole our society has lost it's sense of decorum, respect, dignity and a whole host of other chracter traits that at one time made us better than a third world country. We are all starting to spin in a clockwise motion around the drain, and somebody has to stop it. Maybe that somebody is the Fire Police and EMS workers on the street!!
    God Bless AMERICA!

    • dave statter

      Bud,

      Thanks for your well thought out reponse. It is appreciated. I don’t disagree with you about respect and dignity and how that has changed. I also encourage fire, EMS and police to protect the dignity of victims without infringing on the freedoms offered by this great country. My point all along about the First Amendment is that it doesn’t suddenly go out the window because someone in public safety decides it does (and the courts agree).

      But none of that is my point in this column. My point is that people who wrote in so passionately criticizing the cameraman in the Connecticut trooper story really weren’t being honest. They wrapped themselves in the flag of victims’ rights when that was not an issue. There wasn’t even a hint of a lack of respect or dignity shown by the photographer (except some believe just showing up at the scene of legitimate news story and showing a burning car is disrespectful).

      I question why if everyone was so concerned about the burning car there wasn’t a peep where we have multiple videos showing children and adults in respiratory or cardiac arrest. Some of whom died.

      It has become clear to me that victims’ rights and privacy in this case were just code words for we hate the press so much we are willing to let a cop be the editor in chief and trample on the rights that belong to all of us.

      Do me a favor and read the comments from the Connecticut post. Look at all of the videos and then tell me why I should come to a different conclusion.

      Dave

    • Shh…

      Amen Bud, most of the "hacks" are running around with $100.00 cameras chasing the scanner to get that big "payday" by the local t.v station. I'll make it big with this shock and aww video.The videos of the structure fires in some places are news worthy but how news worthy is a car fire? Oh but wait…there's a body in it…quick let me get to the scene. I know of one in the DC area who likes to hang out at the firehouses so that the firefighters will grant him access to the scene that is inside of the yellow tape. I always made sure he didnt.

      • dave statter

        Knowing who you are talking about Shh… I couldn’t agree with you more. But there are some ethical and very good freelancers who have been very helpful to the fire service in the region offering their raw video free of charge for training.

        But I will ask you this, is a firefighter sitting around the firehouse hoping for a “good” fire much different than a news person hoping for a “good” story to happen?

        Statter

        • Shh…

          Point taken.
          When the freelancers are out chasing and getting on location quickly with camera in hand it's hard for those doing the job to stop and put up fireline tape. Once you have to operate the pumps, assist in advancing lines, venting before the truck shows up and chase off the hacks, it does leave a bad taste in your mouth whenever you see them. Do your thing, get your pictures just please stay out of the way.

  • John

    I don't know about the laws in this particular state, but in Georgia there is no foot traffic allowed on the interstate.  Therefore said cameraman should have been in his vehicle.

    • dave statter

      John,

      That may be. But that’s not what this was about. Like the people who wrote in a year ago, you are looking for any excuse to defend indefensible actions. I say people are doing that, not based on the merits and facts, but based on hating the press and a knee jerk reaction that agents of our government are always right.

      All I am trying to do is have people call it what it is and then have a debate over the real issues and not a debate over victims’ rights and privacy or whether you can be behind a guard rail on the Interstate. (It didn’t bother all of the other cops there who saw it. And I have been on countless Interstates covering any number of news stories including fatal car fires).

      Statter

    • John

      Knowing the area, the photographer came down not from the highway, but from a park/public land next to the road. He didn't actually have to get on the roadway to get there.

  • Gillian

     
    Dave, 
    Why does it have to be "hate for the media"? Personally I think the trooper could have handled it better, but I also am disgusted at being a part of a society that revels in the drama of other people misery. I have served my FD as PIO for just over a year. My mantra has been, Give them what you want them to have.  A simple reposition of a piece of apparatus, and a spokesman to do a short interview stating they believe this to be a fatal accident, that their thoughts are with the crews as they attempt to safely manage the scene and with the family as they learn of their loss. If you plan on traveling Route such and such, please allow for extra time through the detoured area as we may be on scene for several hours. Due to the unsafe conditions of the scene we would like to move all non essential personnel to [anywhere else] and we will provide regular briefings to the media as additional information is obtained. As for the other video’s, I would be willing to bet 90% of the views are FF or EMS personnel; and they are not watching for the “story” or to belittle the victim, they are watching to train, learn, or review. As for the people watching it who are ghouls or sadistic, well, they are going to be that way no matter what, they will find coverage somewhere.
    Of course Hindsight is usually 20/20. I imagine the trooper was emotional and frustrated at the lack of scene control he had. We have all had citizens and press alike infringe on our scenes in a way that makes us uncomfortable. However it is the information age, people want it and they want it now, the more graphic the better. That being known, PD, FD and EMS have a renewed responsibly to shelter their patients/customers/victims as well as themselves; but they also should know that if they do make a mistake or error in judgment it is very likely that SOMEONE has it on video! My advice, train hard and do your best.
    Good topic, don’t let Rhett ruffle your feathers, on this one he is just being a little pot stirrer! One of these days ya’ll are gonna just agree to disagree, but what fun will we have with that?

    • dave statter

      Thanks Gillian. Please note the reference to my little friend at the bottom of today’s Quick Takes.

      As I have said, there are ways that people in public safety can protect the privacy of victims and not trample on the rights of the public and the press. I have been at many scenes where a sheet is put up in front of a victim. Didn’t bother me a bit.

      As for the videos being used for training, the Wilmington, Lake Station and Worcester videos all ran as is on mainstream news media webites and on local TV stations. I don’t see how making such a distinction is practical. Once it is on the Internet it is open to all.

      Also, why is it any less respectful to those victims or any less invasive to their privacy if the intent if training?

      Statter

      • Gillian

         
        Not purposefully less respectful/invasive just as a matter of course. For instance watching a "Jackass" style video to laugh at the guy who gets hurt is different than watching a Football play that caused an injury to a player on the field and that is still different that watching a good auto extrication to analyze what worked/didn’t work. I guess it is all perspective or state of mind. The same picture may be a learning opportunity to me, a Pulitzer to you, and gore to someone else! 

  • Firemutt

    Dave,
    I get what you are saying and agree 100%.  The Conn. car fire showed nothing offensive at all.  Had that video been posted with the State Trooper part cut out, not 1 person would have been offended.  As an experiment I suggest you edit that part out and repost it a year or so from now and see what happens.
    My initial reaction to the video was that the Trooper was totally out of line and I still feel that way.  The trooper could have easily achieved his objective moving all bystanders away from the scene for safety reasons and not said anything about the video.  Also the photojournalist may not have known the accident was a fatal one but the Trooper offered that info without being asked.
    There is much to be learned form many of the videos you post so keep up the good work.

    • dave statter

      Thanks Firemutt. Much appreciated.

  • Anonymous

    I actually agree that the Officer overstepped his bounds, as a volunteer firefighter myself and a former Marine veteran I dislike the media like most do but honestly their just doing their job.  I do agree the Officer was out of line but like several other people's comments there was no actual evidence of a victim in the car from the point of the view of the camera it was just a burning car.  But with that being said I do believe the media does go after the worse of the worse when it comes to accidents or fires.  If your going to enforce the law be sure you don't put yourself above the law, I just got offered a job as a Sheriff's Deputy where I live and I hope to do my best I am sure I will get angry from time to time but knowing when not to interfere with people's rights is a major issue today.

    • dave statter

      Thanks anonymous. You realize that our rights are much more important than our opinions and you have protected those rights in service to your country in two roles. My hat is off to you. And BTW, the news media also makes me angry with some of the stuff they do. I appreciate you giving us your perspective.

      Statter

  • mark

    Well, well, well. Dave has finally crossed the line, now he falls into the category of making his own news story. (Sorry Dave, couldn't resist, and it fit my former anti-media persona so well lol)
     
    This almost sounds like a setup though. Nicely done. I know, it wasn't. I am surprised no one has complained about you making this point and riding your hobby horse, it isn't directly fire related, etc. They must be on vacation, maybe they will yet. Just happy I'm not one of the hypocrites that Dave is castigating.
     
    Fire21, I understand what you are saying and I was taught the same thing. But back in the day, things were different and I don't believe there were as many cops out there on power trips. I'm sure there were some, but not as many. Throw in Youtube, camera phones and a overall declining level of decencymorals and we are where we are. The one thing constant in this is the Constitution. It has not changed (despite the worst efforts of our elected "leaders"; Patriot Act, NDAA, bailouts and any number of other laws) and we should have better educated LEO's. Of course, our "leaders" have enacted so many laws it is impossible for any one person to know all of them and enforce them. But their education should begin with the Constitution, which is supposed to be what all other laws are based on. So I see no problem with a someone asking a cop who is giving an illegalunconstitutional order to not question them or obey them.
     
    Keep stirring the pot Dave, good discussion. Nice break from the fire videos that we normally MMQB.

    • dave statter

      Thanks Mark. And I always know I can count on your to keep it stirred when I slack off.

      Statter

      • mark

        No problem, everybody has to be good at something, glad I finally found my niche.
         
        Merry Christmas to you and yours Dave. Keep up the great work.

  • Ian

    In 32 years I have watched a lot of fire videos, I guess there is always a delicate balance between who is shooting the video, and what you are shooting, and what you intend to do with it. I dont think there is anyone who has not marveled at the bravery of our FFs as the bring people out of an incident,particularly children and  I am sure the relitives of those saved are also happy, particularly when they survive their ordeal. I can see both sides of this argument, would I like to see a video showing an incident where my child had just died, dont think so, would I like to see the video where I could here someone laughing as it was going on? definately not, would like to see it posted on a social network with a running commentry of how my child died, dont think so either.  I am grateful for being able to see incidents up close and personal, there is a lot that can be learned from them. What went right, and sometimes what went wrong. I can understand the trooper's anger, and I would expect that if you are told to move, then move you should.  After reviewing the video again, I am not quite sure what more beifit there was in shooting more. Thats my thoughts for what they are worth. Love your site, keep up the good work.

  • chael O’Keefe

    I've been taking pics of fire and accident scenes for years. I don't race to the scene. I take my time, watching for hazards. I park my vehicle at a safe distance, away from traffic. I have credentials, a safety vest, and a firm understanding that I'm not wanted on scene. I stay as "out of site" as possible. When possible, I ask an officer "may I enter your safety perimeter?" I usally get instruction on where I can safely photograpgh. I do not make conversation with spectators, I do not get in the way. I will speculate that atleast 1 out of 5 scenes, I'm questioned as to who I am or "who are you with". The wrong answer is  "I'm freelance" The answer that avoids trouble is "I'm with First Response Photography (fb)" My business name, usually works, and I go on with my business. On a number of occasions, I have been scolded, yelled at, and even threatened with incarceration. My response is always the same, "Yessir, goodbye" and I split. It's just not worth making trouble. If an officer is that upset, I'm not going to make things better by arguing "my right" to be onscene. It's really that simple.

  • http://DWIHitParade.com Ken Rossignol

    Dave;
    In covering a 10-50 involving a motorcycle which had blown through a red light and was t-boned by a pickup at an intersection on Md. Rt. 4, the fire and rescue were giving the biker CPR and the southbound lanes were shut down. At least 150 people were at the top of a 50 foot high embankment at the Rock Church watching the rescue effort. I was also at the top of the hill with the crowd of onlookers and no one was bothering or hindering the effort. A trooper ran up the hill and told me that the fire chief told him to tell me to stop filming or taking photos. I would have been amazed were it not that this typically happened at news scenes each year. I told the trooper to go back down the hill and deal with traffic and I would deal with the news and the chief could deal with trying to save the guy's life. Even though I was up on top of the hill, the view offered did not include the motorcyclist who was being worked on, who was later pronounced dead. After several incidents in which Maryland State Troopers confiscated cameras of my photographers, ordered them to delete digital photos or be arrested, the State Police set up in-service training for each of the three Southern Maryland Barracks. After the rights of anyone who was at a news scene to take photos were explained by a ranking officer, there was not a single further incident of a cop playing editor.
    Firefighters and rescue personnel often assumed that we could see the same view of gore that they could and that was not the case. In fact, we often waited for the sheet so we could get a photo we could use.  To take a photo of a burning car that may or may not have someone inside is hardly gory. It is impossible to come back later and stage a scene to get "appropriate" photos.  I don't have too much use for a lot of the left-wing bias in the media today that adopts a presidential candidate simply because of his race and ignores his socialist background, but I firmly believe that we don't want cops deciding what will be in the news. I had a sheriff, states attorney and six deputies actually go around in the dead of night and clean out newsstands of my newspaper the night before the election to prevent folks from reading the news before they voted.  My attorney's filed suit and won all the way to the Supreme Court to support the principle that the First Amendment prohibits cops from censoring the news in any way.  Go read the decision: Rossignol v Voorhaar.   Also read my new book now available on Amazon: The Story of the Rag! http://www.amazon.com/Story-Marys-Today-Newspaper-ebook/dp/B006NSFV9S/ref=sr_1_7?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1324291924&sr=1-7

  • EMTsomd

    I understand why the Trooper wanted to stop the Cameraman, but I disagree with the way he went about it.  He didn't need to be so rude, the guy was just doing his job.  I do understand they need to gather some footage for a news story and I understand filming a heroic act.  I don't think I agree with standing there and filming a burning car for what seemed like an excessive amount of time.  I'm not sure if the victim's body was inside or ejected, but it makes no difference.  I think he had enough footage of the burning vehicle.  What more was he hoping to see?  What more did he really need to see?  Fatal accidents are very sad and it can be tough for personnel on scene sometimes.  Sometimes there are things that get to you about particular calls.   When you have people taking pictures or filming the scene where someone has lost their life, it can seem insensitive, especially if it goes on for too long.  I think this is probably an area where the Cameraman's experience comes into it….maybe knowing when he has what he needs.  The other thing is if your going to be a reporter or Cameraman filming these kinds of tragic events, you are putting yourself at the scene of something where emotions are high and people react differently.  Different things offend different people and you may have to deal with it and learn to not let it get to you….just like we do.   

    • dave statter

      So you EMTsomd are saying we should go by your standards of what’s newsworthy or worth filming. Because you decree it, burning cars shouldn’t be shot? Is that what you are saying. You or the trooper are the editors saying we don’t need to see any more. Does that really make any sense and is that a workable system and set of standards for this? Really?

      If this is how you operate, you better wake up. Because the courts have said that doesn’t work in this country. The person with the camera standing in the public place makes that decision of what to shoot in the United States. But there are plenty of countries you can go to where they leave that decision to the government and its agents. I will take this one.

      Statter

  • EMTsomd

    No, I'm not saying that.  They have every right to be there.  I'm saying it's a scene where emotions run high.  Sometimes a particular incident may remind you of a loved one, losing a loved one.  Sometimes you can run a call and nothing gets to you.  Sometimes the car is the same type your kid drives or the age of the victim is the same age of your wife.  I'm guessing that call got to that Trooper for some reason.  Like I said, different things offend different people.  It's a heightened emotional time.  Sometimes we get yelled at by family members because they are upset over losing a loved one and they are venting.  All I'm saying is if you are going to place yourself at the scene doing a job, just like we do, you need to learn to deal with the heightened emotions, just like we do.  I'm not saying it's okay to put your hands on anyone or their equipment, but you may need to learn to deal with the heightened emotions.  There's an old saying amongst Fire Departments:  Leave your feelings at the door.  So, basically…dont' get your feelings hurt if someone is offended that you are filming.  Just do your job and go home.  Try to understand where you are.  You are around human beings trying to do the best they can to deal with what is going on around them too. 

    • dave statter

      Got it. Misunderstood. We hope we all act like professionals. But the problem these days is many of those with cameras aren’t traditional news people, but rather the public. At least when I acted like a jerk at the scene I had a boss you could complain to.

      Statter

  • scott

    Dave,
    I can come up with a few reasons, if you want to call them that.  1) when I view the videos, I am not looking to see dead people, I realize I am looking at my brothers and sisters and I hope to learn from them in many ways. I do not feel for the victim's unless they are one of us. I think Its because I try to not become emotionally involved in the victim's life…. If I let myself do that for all that I have seen, I would be locked up in a padded room.  2) With the political cuts to public safety, I'm starting to think the public needs to know what we really do and let them see it for what it is.  3) With the invention of cell phone cameras. many of us may not even realize we are being recorded. I carry a camera, but I alway forget about it while I am focused on my job duties.  4) Not many non-firefighters are even aware your site exist.
    http://www.streetsmartpo.com

    • dave statter

      All of that makes sense to me Scott. But remember a good many people criticizing the photographer and me in the CT post were firefighters and regualrs to this site.

      Statter

  • http://FB Capt. Jim Hunt

    Dave, I censor what I look at and watch. Not a trooper, you, my government, nobody! I have had the misfortune of seeing many bodies in just about any state you can imagine. I don't care to see it again. So, I don't look. 
    Still, I have a strong opinion that agrees with you, and if another wishes to not see something, don't look.
    In addition, stills and videos are very useful in training and investigations, especially the early footage. Keep em coming.
    Thank you.
    Jim

    • dave statter

      Thanks Captain Jim,

      In my old age, I have gotten the same way. There are so many things I avoid looking at if at all possible. I agree with the self censoring. Works pretty damn good for me.

      Statter

  • Terry dunn

    thanks  dave as a  ret vol firefighter  i understand your points but  if you think back  to the days your talking about yes lookey loos were always there (lol most of the time in the way)  but in those  days, cell phones with camras warnt around, today everyone has one and most download every new thing to social net works  media picks it up runs with it yes there was a day media stopped and said is this  right now once it out on the net its become fair  game

  • Legeros

    So what's the verdict so far, Dave? Has your great question been answered, at least partly?
      
    There was outrage then (one type of situation/fatal fire video), but no outrage recently (other types of situations/fatal fire videos).
     
    Is it as simple as none of the recent situations (and videos therein) involved a confrontation at the incident, and thus there's no "trigger" for such reactions here?

  • Bill

    Dave,
     
    When the CT video came out I didnt have an issue with the fact that the reporter was video taping but did take issue it was being done by a bystander on a limited access roadway. While I understand the first amendment rights we have numerous issues with people stopping or coming onto limited access highways while we are working at incidents. This leads to more problems to deal with. These people should stay in their cars and not drive onto the highway just to catch a glimpse. We have had numerous fire trucks struck and numerous firefighters struck due to distracted drivers and we dont need to add more problems to the mix by having to have first responders or police officers dealing with pedestrians on a highway that they are not legally allowed to be on as pedestrians. 

    • dave statter

      I don’t recall there were bystanders taking video. I know there were people next to the cameraman. But how do we know they weren’t witnesses or stopped to help.

      If I was the trooper, before I chased them away, I would make sure they didn’t see anything important to the investigation.

      Thanks.

      Statter

  • RJ in florida

    i have been shooting emergency scenes for over 30 years and the assault on civillian and media photography is a violation of alot of rights. first and formost, scene photography and video provides a training and review opprutunity for the departments and a reference to evaluate tactics for the future. i reject the notion that its a violation of privacy as stupid. if you think you are gonna get brain frazzled if you see your house burning on you tube…DONT CLICK ON IT! I almost went to jail for taking pictures at a fire only because a police officer said "i dont think its right for you to be taking pictures" after having to give a reason for why i take the pictures, i was threatened with arrest unless i stood in a certain place she designated (but others without cameras were free to go where they wished). I am so glad that contempt of cop is not yet a law. i complained to IAB and they promptly swept under the rug. since then the supreme court has ruled on photographers and videographers rights and thank god the first amendmant prevailed. (otherwise statter's website would not be more interesting). as for my situation, if a cop stopps me again, im taking it to court, PERIOD!

  • Bill B

    Dave,
    You said "The public and the press have a right to shoot anything in public view in an area that is accessible to the public and those in public safety have no right to interfere."
    As long as the public does not interfere with rescue, or fire supression they can shoot in public view till the cows come home for all I care.  However, if you start interfering with the rescue or fire supression, even the first amendment can not and will not protect you.  You or those in similar vain will be arrested for interfering in and during an emergency.
    Other than that, Merry Christmas Mr. Statter. 

    • dave statter

      Couldn’t agree more as long as the act of taking pictures isn’t considered interfering (as some would have you believe).

      Best to you and Merry Christmas.

      Statter

      • Bill B

        Nope taking pictures isn't considered interfering, been there and watched countless others do that as I was helping at numerous scenes.  
        Merry Christmas to you and Mrs. Statter

        • dave statter

          Thanks Bill. Same there.

  • Bill B

    As for the above video, at least the police officer had the compassion to stay with the patient even though it wasn't his responsibility.  Sometimes it just takes something extra ordinary to bring out the best and some times the worst in us.

    • dave statter

      Amen again Bill B.

  • http://www.youtube.com/firemike71 Mike B

    Dave, I think this is a great debate to get into, and I have found myself in quite an amount of inner conflict about just that lately. I am a career firefighter, and have been at a few incidents, usually involving the death of, or serious injury of children where as we were trying to do our job, I look up and see cameras.. And my thought is always the same, and it involves alot of things I can't say here. At the same time, I am also a fire buff, and have been going to fires in my area since I can remember. I do bring my camcorder and record incidents in my area, I post fire videos to youtube, and use them to critique with my guys at work. Doing this I have seen some heroics by some of the best of the best. I have also been told to get lost by quite a number of police officers. In a few videos people have asked how I could tape someone losing their home, or pets. My reply is always that I did not make the terrible incident happen, I hope to make my people better at what they do, and showing the public what we really do. I try to make it a point to never show anything overly graphic, and this is where tact, ethics and morals come into play. I will not show a body, I edit it out, and that is my choice, and my choice only. All the other folks here have had some great points, and I don't think there is any right answer, especially when dealing with one of the most basic and raw emotional things any person can go through

    • dave statter

      Was on the scene with photographers with lots of bodies, but they didn’t make air. The only thing I disagree with you about is when you say, “I don’t think there is any right answer”.

      Our rights in this country shouldn’t be about how we “feel” this day or how we “feel” about a certain event. Yes, the First Amendment can allow for feelings to be hurt and maybe even emotional trauma (it would never be my intent to cause it). It isn’t pretty at times. But the alternative is quite scary to imagine.

      Thanks for writing.

      Statter

  • Dave Collins

    What do you think of this law recently passed in CT Dave? FF's have less rights than the press in our State.
    A new law makes it a crime for emergency responders, including firefighters, when responding to a request to provide someone with medical or other assistance, to knowingly (1) take that person's photograph or digital image or (2) make such an image available to a third person. The act does not apply if the (1) responders take the actions in the performance of their duties or (2) person being assisted or an immediate family member consents.
    The penalty for a violation is up to one year in prison, up to a $2,000 fine, or both.
    PA 11-47, effective October 1, 2011

    • dave statter

      My quick response without much thought is I am not sure there needs to be a law, but it was inevitable after the Georgia incident with the cell phone video of the dead woman. I think there is a distinction between what the public and press can do and on-duty fire and EMS. I would prefer to see it handled by smart rules administered by individual departments.

      Statter