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Check this out: Scene safety or censorship? You be the judge as Miami-Dade firefighters confront videographer.

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Curt Varone’s view on this video at

Yesterday, during my presentation at Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute’s Staff and Command course, there was a lively discussion (it was a very lively and enjoyable group) about the issues you will see raised in the video above. We were discussing the fact that it is somewhat of a rarity to be at a scene these days where no one is recording your actions. The issue of scene safety versus censorship came up and about the same time it was playing out live in Florida.

This involves a fly out, a videographer (MiamiImpulse) and firefighters from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. At 3:24 into the video a firefighter and captain cross the street. The firefighter makes the cut sign with his hand across his neck asking, “Can you not videotape that please?”. MiamiImpulse replies “Why?”. The firefighter says “This is personal information.” At the same time the captain approaches, telling the guy he is leaving. As the captain makes his first request for police and tells the man to turn around and walk away, the firefighter says he is not allowed to videotape this and repeats that it is personal information. Following that, the captain shifts gears and makes it a case of scene safety. The videographer notes in text that cars were driving between him and the helicopter. He refuses to leave.

What we don’t know, of course, is if anything happened before MiamiImpulse began rolling video. It appears that this is unedited video from a camera and a smart phone.

So, is this Miami-Dade Fire Rescue policy? Is this the crew’s policy? Who is right and who is wrong? Is this really a scene safety issue or is it being used to keep the man from shooting what the firefighters don’t want him to see?

My suggestion to all reading this is that you figure this issue out before a confrontation with the public. Are you clear on the legal issues? Do you know your department’s policy? Do you understand the rights of the citizens with the camera and what they can and can’t do? Do you let your personal view of what’s proper and not proper impact your decision making?

You will only be running into more and more instances where people are shooting video of you in action. Make sure you are standing on firm ground when and if you interfere with someone taking pictures. Otherwise, it can get very ugly.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Anonymous

    the Capt is An IDIOT! he needs to turn around and do his job at the LZ.
    not only that but he is a LIAR.. @ combative citizen..

    • RJ in florida

      WHAT AN IDIOT! from what i see this is boarderline patient abandonment, he came out of the ambulance and i saw no patient being transfered to the helo which is should be this guy’s PRIMARY CONCERN…Then we get a clear violation of the guys rights to video ANYTHING HE WANTS. Wearing a bloody glove then getting in contact with the guy BATTERY and possibly exposing a civilian to disease

      but the name Captain SMART?….not too smart at all. He was out of control making up a situation on the radio calling for a code 3 response from the cops exposing the public to what he was calling a violent individual

      I have looked in my cristal ball and i see a TERMINATION on the worse end and a demotion on the other

      if it was me, i’d ask for a demotion AND and public apoloigy in addition to some money

      and after all that the helo takes off without incident

  • Patrick

    Wow! What a great educational video on how to not deal with public in a situation like that. I feel the captain is not completely wrong for asking the man to step back, but how he handle the situation was incorrect. The videographer was right that he is in a public area and has the right to film the scene. If it was such a scene safety issue than why not state that at the beginning. A simple “excuse me sir, I will need you to ask you to step back because we need 300 ft of clearance from the chopper”. Instead of beginning the conversation off aggressive by yelling at the guy to tell him to step back.

    Again, if it was such a scene safety issue. The captain should have told a firefighter to grab the yellow tape and put up a perimeter around the scene.

    The videographer looks like a volunteer or a whacker to have radios and a light bar in his car. So two wrongs do not make a right, I blame both of them and feel the captain should not be punish for this, but def. need to review company policy.

    • Another Dave

      They were “both at fault” as much as 100 yards of plastic tape makes a landing zone safer. You need to step behind the line, sir, and leave this to the professionals.

  • EastCoastLt.

    The Capt. was out line.

  • Bill

    That was handled very badly. As a ‘Captain’ he should have been Smarter than that (I know bad joke).

    I’m not sure if it’s policy or if they’ve had a bad experience prior, but what was the videographer hurting? We never stop, prevent or impede on videos as long as they are safely out of the immediate fire scene. I have been in 1-2 situations where the videographer was too close to a pin-in and I kindly walked over and told them that they were too close for scene safety and that the person was injured badly and that we did not need to get video of the victim. They agreed and stepped back more.

    If you just run right up and start yelling like this – it does nothing but make you look foolish. If you explain why, you are professional and you allow them to continue to record – from a safer spot, it all works out itself out. On video CPT Smart does not look so smart now, he looks like a maniac – I’m sure this is not a portrayal of who he actually is – but it’s on video and you can’t remove that perception. We treat every scene and scenario as if someone maybe recording it. That way – you are always doing the right thing and always portraying a professional appearance. In this day and age you have to expect it, which we do.

    My other concern is with the emergency situation. They are flying someone out – do they really need to divert their attention to a lone videographer when the patient may need assistance. Of course CPT Smart probably did not abandon his patient – but to the average person who watches this video they are going to think he is a bully and that he left a patient to walk over and start yelling at a guy with a camera (which is what he did…he started yelling immediately).

  • Joaeph Schmoe

    Obviously, Capt. Smart has not received instruction on the legal nuances of being videographed or photographed in public areas.

    It may be an institutional failure. Perhaps his agency has no policy or has not provided CEs on the matter. Or, perhaps it was not covered in medic school. Regardless, Smart was out of line. He barely kept his composure, exaggerated the seriousness of the situation and likely assaulted the subject by pushing him with his forearm.

    Any first responder should always believe that are being recorded, especially on a high visibility scene. Personnel should act in a manner that is legal, ethical and presents well to the public.

    Smart’s failure to do so made himself look like the bad guy and the guy holding the I-Pad appear to be a victim.

    Not too Smart.

  • Anonymous

    Capt lost control of the whole scene which he was in charge of! EGO gets in the way often. He says that he needs 300 feet and the heli takes off with firefighters closer than that without full PPE and some guys including the CAPT had no eye protection on. He should be worried about his men on the fire ground before being so combative with the guy. Let PD worry about him…..

  • Fire Captain


  • Jim Stanley

    This wasn’t an issue of scene safety and the civilian is in his right to videograph the scene, as he is in a public place. The Captain was clearly wrong in this situation and should be given “a talk”.

  • Matt

    This Captain is a Bonehead. First he came off too aggressive. Next he stopped paying attention to the scene itself and concentrated on this guy alone. Then, he kept yelling for dispatch to get him police. Capt “Smart” relax.
    As a Company Officer if I felt this guy was in a dangerous area I would ask him to leave, and if asked why, give him a reason. Then if this person would not leave I would contact dispatch and have them send PD to this location for (whatever is happening). There, done. He has been advised to leave and my request is now recorded with Dispatch should something happen to this civilian. If I have extra personnel (not likely) I may post one near this guy to make sure he’s safe.
    We are neither equipped, nor trained, nor allowed to aggressively remove civilians. That’s the Cops job.
    Well, now Capt Smart is not living up to his name, and all the World can watch.
    (On a side note, I find it’s usually the Cops who we have to keep out of “hot” zones, not civilians!)

  • David Pfeil Sr.

    Captain Smart was more like Captain Stupid…..Come on people wake up…There are cameras everywhere….Remember that and “ACT” like you remember that……

  • R2

    Captain Smart is not so smart; maybe “Captain Rage” would be more appropriate. This guy has absolutely no tact or people skills and needs to get his anger issues under control. There is no “personal information” issue because it would be impossible to identify the patient from that distance. There is no scene safety issue because cars were clearly allowed to drive between the videographer and the scene. Very bad PR for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, which is a shame because they do have some excellent officers.

  • pararescuesq1

    Capt. Smart needs to be charged with Pt. abandonment and assault on the “violent by-stander”. You touch me with bloody gloves from another person, I’m going to see you with the law offices of Dewy, Screw’em and Howe. And by looking at the video, seems to be over 300′ of safety zone already.

    • RJ in florida

      five bucks says they have a past

  • Former Chief

    Wow, did the Captain have too much coffee that day? Definitely poorly handled. The videographer could have diffused the situation a little by backing up a little more, but once the Captain became so aggresive, the testosterone war was on. What personal information were they talking about? Also, did anyone catch the flight paramedic or nurse pointing towards the videographer right before the Capt. and Firefighter walked over? I wonder if the flight medic said something to the FD that got them started? Anyway, (I apologize in advance for starting this debate Dave) maybe riding around all day in those silly colored fire trucks causes too much anxiety for those folks. Leave them out in the sun for a while so they ripen and turn RED.

    • mark

      I did see that too, FC.

      It also appeared that at least once, the FF directing traffic to the videographer’s right saw him. Heshe looked right at him.

      LOL on the ugly colored trucks.

    • stuart

      that’s their chopper so it was a fire department employee on the bird.

  • Bubba

    I say promote the captain or make him PIO. It’s obvious this guy did something prior to this or follows these guys around with having a scanner in his car.

    • stuart

      Yeah he runs a photo/video site. He takes freelance video of fire/police stuff going on in the area. That doesn’t make him a psycho. Every person who is part of the media or who takes freelance video has a scanner. BTW, scanners don’t make you a criminal.

      • Divemedic

        Although I think the Captain was in the wrong here, you are incorrect. In Florida, it is a misdemeanor to have a radio scanner mounted in your car unless you have an FCC license as a HAM operator, a sworn LEO or emergency service employee, or are a “recognized news outlet” or licensed alarm contractor. Statute 843.16.

        • dave statter

          I did not mean to indicate that there are not jurisdictions with scanner laws. I meant to refer to the notion that you needed a police officer’s permission to shoot pictures and video. I have long been familiar with such laws. I did ask if those laws, many of them antiquated, cover smart phone aps. Do you know?

  • JC

    Looks like MDFR has a loose cannon on their hands. Maybe him and the cameraman have history, but even so, he is the one that looks like an idiot in this case.

  • Mike

    That Captain is a boner. An embarrassment.

  • Anonymous

    good job keying your radio and pushing a civilian while wearing bloody gloves

  • Blue

    Capt TOOL needs a bit of time off.

  • Joe

    Capt Smart isn’t .. The Miami Dade Dept should review this. ..
    Pushing someone (lawsuit).. touching someone with used gloves (lawsuit).. Is someone doing something wrong ? and they don’t want photo’s…
    Responce from “Patrick” “looks like a volunteer or a whacker” ????? I think Patrick has a problem..

    • RJ in florida

      whacker or not he was not interfearing at all, “Capt DUMB” stepped up to him and it looks liek he was 300′ away

  • EastCoastLt.

    Looks like he intentionaly keys his mike and broadcasts ” Get back Get back sir! as if to make it sound like the bystander is becoming more agressive to the responders.

  • Robert Kramer

    Those 2 idiots should have been police officers.

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  • Scooter

    WOW how out of line is that… “combative person” really how about a combative Capt. Makes the FD look real bad… like you say cars keep passing by so not that dangerous to shut the road down. Capt. Smart needs a day in the street and a PR class. Big heads and trying to act like a bad ass…. Don’t act this way and Strike Da Box! K

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    Who wants to bet that Capt. Smart used to be a cop?

  • Anonymous

    Only the BEST become Law Enforcement Officers, others become firemen. Capt. Smart is a fine example of a L.E. academy washout.

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    Hahahaha ziiiiiing!

  • Anonymous

    Love the bloody gloves!!!

  • EmbarrasedByThisDude

    Captain D Smart is a Dumb Ass

  • Legeros

    Can I click on the video, or does it contain personal information!?!?

  • stuart

    What’s the good captain preventing? Look how far he is from the patient. What could he possibly video that would be questionable? From that distance, you wouldn’t be able to tell anything about the patient or their condition. If you don’t like it, stand between him and the stretcher…there, he can’t see the patient. The guy is videotaping the helicopter hot load, that’s it. Let it go Captain.

  • Old Man

    Capt Smart,NOT !!! Goes to show ya, theres an ass for every seat

  • Surfer

    I agree with Patrick that this is a perfect educational video on how not to deal with the public. Not knowing anything about the incident, I can’t help but wonder if there is a personal connection between the patient and responders. Perhaps it was a family member, public figure, etc.; someone for whom they went overboard trying to protect and weren’t acting rationally. Hopefully this is not SOP for Miami-Dade.

  • jon

    greg smart is a horse’s ass.

  • Anonymous

    I think Capt. Smart and his partner should have their certifications pulled/revoked for abandoning their patient. Check into that Miami-Dade FD.

  • 95%er

    • The U.S. Department of Justice has taken the rare step of intervening in a civil rights dispute in Maryland, arguing that a photographer’s recording of police activity in public was constitutionally protected conduct. Civil rights division lawyers filed a “statement of interest” on March 4 in support of photojournalist Mannie Garcia , who filed suit last year against a suburban Maryland police department. Garcia claimed that police unlawfully arrested him in June 2011 as he took photos of the arrest of two Hispanic men. “The United States urges the court to find that both the First and Fourth Amendments protect an individual who peacefully photographs police activity on a public street, if officers arrest the individual and seize the camera of that individual for that activity,” the government attorney wrote.

  • Rich Booth

    Besides the fact that the Capt. has lost his control, does anyone notice on the I phone video, the Capt.’s gloves? He seems to have blood on them and he is touching a person with his forearm and possibly his gloves. He could be contaminating that person putting him at risk for a variety of health issues. This is not good for the Fire Dept, EMS or any pulic employee to act in this way to a person videoing a helicopter landing..

  • OldCityCaptain

    What a douche-bag!!!!! That photographer is gonna get paid good!!!! Assault, …blood borne pathogen exposure,…..battery!!!! ETC! Capt. Douche-Bag needs a demotion, and a city sponsored vacation!!!

  • Shhh…

    We have a screamer. Wonder how loud he screams on the radio when he has a JOB. Mic half way down his throat. Capt. You were wrong.

  • LadderLt1

    It is absolutley ridiculous that he keeps screaming over the radio for PD like he is in serious trouble. When a message that frantic goes over the air, it is not going to be taken lightly and PD is going to respond as fast as possible. That means the officers are going to respond at a higher priority and higher speed putting themselves and citizens in more jeopardy for absolutely no reason. This guy seriously needs to be reprimanded.

  • Puzzled

    To quote a movie;

    Is there some drug you should be taking, or one we might recommend? LIKE TAKE A CHILL PILL!

    Way, way out of line for a “professional”

  • Tony

    Captain Smart does tell someone off camera to stop that car. This is at 5:38 into the video and before the helicopter takes off

  • Anonymous

    As a firefighter, I understand the rights and needs of photographers. As a photographer, I understand scene safety and the anxiety created by the camera. As a US citizen, I enjoy the freedoms provided by the constitution. I think it’s just simply a need for Knowledge, understanding, and courtesy on both sides that will prevent these events. When photographing, I carry “The Card” in my camera bag. It’s good info for both photographers and public safety members. here is a link to it:

  • will

    Dave there is good in this. You have a new video for your media relations classes. I have also uncovered what I believe to be a rare video of Capatin Caffeine before his fire service days.

  • Fire21

    To quote Bugs Bunny, “What a maroon, what a gulla-bull.”

  • Gary

    If this is a safety issue, where is the Firefighters PPE? Oh! most safety zones are 120 feet. And they didn’t see him when they were sitting things up for the landing?

  • Too Old To Work

    This is becoming a big issue, mostly for the police, but also for EMS and the fire service.

    Any public employee should expect to be filmed while performing his duties in a public space.

    The Captains arguments about “public safety” are specious at best.

    There have been several court decisions upholding the right of the public to take pictures or video in public.

    At some point, public officials are going to be held personally financially responsible for damages in a case like this.

    Maybe then the rest will finally realize that this is a serious issue.

    The key to avoiding looking bad in these incidents is to a) ignore the camera, and b) do your job the right way.

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  • Dmgdriver

    Mr Smart claimed combative bystander. About the moment he got into my face screaming, and laid hands on me he would have found out about the definition of combative. As it is on several occasions, Smart made physical contact with the photographer. Clear cut case of assault and battery

  • MiamiSlaveCounty

    On behalf of the Attorney General, the Department of Justice would like to thank you for your many messages on law enforcement issues and activities and other matters of special interest to many groups across the nation. The Attorney General appreciates the fact that so many citizens have taken the time to express their views and thoughts on these important matters.

    Department of Justice Main Switchboard – 202-514-2000
    Office of the Attorney General Public Comment Line – 202-353-1555
    Correspondence to the Department, including the Attorney General, may be sent to:

    U.S. Department of Justice
    950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20530-0001

  • MiamiSlaveCounty
    Courts have long held that recordings made by private citizens of police conduct or other items of public interest are entitled to First Amendment protection. See, e.g., Glik, 655 F.3d at 84-85 (finding First Amendment right to record “clearly established”); Smith, 212 F.3d at 1333; Fordyce, 55 F.3d at 439; Blackston v. Alabama, 30 F.3d 117, 120-21 (11th Cir. 1994); Lambert v. Polk Cnty., 723 F. Supp.128, 133 (S.D. Iowa 1989).
    Similarly, the Supreme Court has established that journalists are not entitled to greater First Amendment protections than private individuals. See,e.g., Nixon v. Warner Comm., Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 608-09 (1978) (“The First Amendment generally grants the press no right to information about a trial superior to that of the general public.”); Branzburg, 408 U.S. at 684 (“It has generally been held that the First Amendment does not guarantee the press a constitutional right of special access to information not available to the public generally.”)

  • John

    WOW! People videoing and photographing scenes are not going to stop any time in the near future. Normally I don’t comment on these things too much but we as a fire service need to learn how to manage incidents like this as they are going to happen more frequently.
    As has been brought up in so many of the earlier comments if scene safety were such an issue at this incident why wasn’t a clear perimeter established or the additional resources required to secure the perimeter brought in. I understand that in today’s society we need to protect everyone from their own ignorance or stupidity as I am sure that if someone, not neccessarily this photographer, were videoing this incident and were hit with a blade of grass from the rotorwash, that they would want to sue the fire departmet.
    Everyone so far has commented on the fact that Capt Smart wasn’t very smart, no pun intended, however I saw things a little differently but I still think the video has the better evidentary value. No one ha commented on the fact that Capt Smart probably realized at some point that things were not going well at all. Every time he told the photographer to back up or leave or to “please back up” he keyed the microphone on his radio with his bloody glove. As soon as the photographer started to respond he un keyed the microphone. So I am sure that the radio tapes will play out that the photographer was “combative” during the incident. I’m sure the Captain was thinking he needed something tocover his rear if this goes to court.
    Now the best part is sit back and wait and see how the department handles this incident. Will they get out in front of it or will they ignore it?

  • slackjawedyokel

    We call that “roostering up” – When did we go from being the good guys to part of the problem ?

  • Smokey

    Great example of what not to do. It begins with the firefighter getting out of the cab of the ambulance WITH gloves on. I guess they decon the driver area after each call? Then the Captain loses control of the situation. I can only imagine the fireground when he is IC. His span of control is about 1-2.
    The press was across a roadway. If he was in any danger the road should have been shut down as well.
    Looks like the smoking gun is when he assaulted the press with bloody gloves and physical contact.
    We will use this at work as an example of what not to do.
    Thanks for posting

  • Anonymous

    What ethnicity is the cameraman, just curious.

  • Mickey Osterreicher

    As the general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) I deal with these issues on a daily basis around the country. Having the opportunity to see the video and read the previous comments I agree that the best take away from this unfortunate but all-too-common incident is that departments need better guidelines and on-going training.

    But that should just be a baseline beginning point. “Because I said so” is fine for your mother to say but paraphrasing the US Court of Appeal for the First Circuit: “A police officer [or other government official] is not a law unto himself; he cannot give an order that has no colorable legal basis and then arrest a person who defies it. So it is here: because the [photographer’s] activities were peaceful, not performed in derogation of any law, and done in the exercise of his First Amendment rights, [Captain Smart] lacked the authority to stop them.”

    While the press may not have any greater right of access than the public, they have no less right either. If there was no actual perimeter established and vehicular traffic was allowed to pass closer than the photographer was standing, then there was no basis for ordering him to leave. The First Amendment is not absolute. It is subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions. So while it might have been reasonable for the Captain to ask the photographer to move back a few feet (if he indeed was in the way or in danger) it is unreasonable and unlawful for him to order him to leave because that order restricts far more speech (and photography is viewed under the First Amendment as a form of protected speech expression) than is necessary to achieve a legitimate government interest.

    There is no reasonable expectation of privacy in public. That in fact is how we distinguish public from private. It is why surveillance cameras are allowed in public places. HIPPA applies to healthcare providers (including EMS personnel). Unfortunately there have been far too many misguided attempts by EMS to enforce those privacy protection requirements upon the press and the public who have no “duty of care” to the patient.

    This incident is another teachable moment. Let’s hope that those who should know better learn from it.

  • Chuck DeVry

    AMR would have had this patient to the hospital before clown truck king got out of his truck. Captain Stupid should be charged with assault.

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