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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 FireLawBlog.com

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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