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News report: TV station says Miami-Dade Fire Rescue ‘did virtually nothing to discipline’ captain who went on tirade against videographer. Calls it a ‘cover up’.

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Previous coverage here & here 

Analysis from FireLawBlog.com’s Curt Varone

We first showed the video below involving Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Captain Greg Smart on March 22, the day after the incident occurred. Since that time a lot of people have been wondering about the outcome of the department’s investigation into Captain Smart’s aggressive behavior toward videographer Taylor Hardy. According to WFOR-TV in Miami, Captain Smart received his disciplinary action a month ago but nobody bothered to let Hardy or the public know the outcome. WFOR-TV reports “the department did virtually nothing to Smart.”

What I find disturbing about all of this is not so much the issue of what discipline there was for Captain Smart. Instead it’s a lack of a clear message from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. In looking at all of the coverage then and now, no one has acknowledged that it is okay for the public to take pictures from a public place and it’s not okay for firefighters to interfere with that First Amendment right. And if that isn’t the case, shouldn’t the leadership at Miami-Dade Fire Rescue explain their interpretation of the? This lack of clarity with such a high profile video probably sends the wrong message to the public and to other firefighters.

The video report above describes in detail what the TV station discovered. Here are some excerpts:

… a close review of the report, written by Chief P.O. Albury, reveals efforts to cover up Smart’s actions.

Hardy filed a complaint that Smart was trying to prevent him from recording at the scene. Albury said that charge was “not sustained” because “at no time did Capt Smart state that the complainant couldn’t film.”

In other words, since Smart did not actually say the words “you can not videotape here” he was found innocent of the charge.

Albury’s report neglects the fact that there was another firefighter standing with Smart who explicitly told Hardy he wasn’t allowed to videotape. It also neglects that Smart told Hardy: “You are leaving right now, turn around and walk away. You are leaving right now.” Nor does it note that Smart attempted to block Hardy’s video with his chest.

Albury did sustain a complaint that Smart’s behavior was “unprofessional.” Albury wrote: “Capt Smart responded poorly when the bystander refused to back out of the safety perimeter.”

But Albury excused the behavior noting that Smart was under a great deal of stress. “I have coached Capt Smart reference this event,” Albury wrote. “He was under a great deal of stress on this call and acted in an aggressive nature when challenged by the bystander. I feel that he and I have come to an understanding as to the expected behavior when dealing with the public. Capt Smart agrees that he overreacted and caused embarrassment not only to himself but to the department. I feel that in the future he will have a different perspective as to how we need to act regardless of the severity of the call.”

Nowhere in the investigation by Albury does it address Smart’s use of the radio to demand police units respond on an emergency basis.

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