Proposed Law Would Make It Crime For First Responders To Share Scene Photos

Sandy Malone

California's Assembly Bill 2655 is a direct response to deputies leaking pictures of Kobe Bryant's helicopter crash.

Sacramento, CA – A state lawmaker from Los Angeles introduced legislation on Monday that would make it a crime for first responders to take pictures at an accident or crime scene unless it is specifically needed for law enforcement purposes.

Democratic State Assemblyman Mike Gipson introduced the legislation after several pictures from basketball legend Kobe Bryant’s January helicopter crash were leaked to the media, according to The Hill.

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, died on Jan. 26 when the helicopter flying them and seven friends to a basketball tournament at Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks crashed into a Los Angeles County hillside.

After pictures of the crash site were leaked to the media just hours later, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva launched an investigation into who was responsible for taking the leaked pictures.

The sheriff announced on March 2 that the investigation had determined that five full-time deputies and three reservists were involved in taking graphic photographs of the mangled wreckage, KMSB reported.

"I was horrified,” Sheriff Villanueva said. “I just felt betrayed by my own deputies.”

He said the deputies were sent to the scene to secure the crash site – not to take photographs.

“They had no place to be taking any photographs of anything,” Sheriff Villanueva told KMSB.

According to KCAL, one of the deputies who took photos of the wreckage and human remains was a trainee.

He allegedly later showed the images to a girl he was trying to impress at a bar.

The bartender overheard the exchange and filed an online complaint about what the deputy had allegedly done, KCAL reported.

All eight of the involved deputies are under internal investigation, according to KMSB.

They have allegedly told investigators that they deleted the crash site photos from their phones after Sheriff Villanueva ordered that any unauthorized pictures be destroyed.

The only people authorized to take pictures of the crash scene were personnel from the coroner’s office and the National Transportation Safety Board, KMSB reported.

However, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) policy does not specifically prohibit first responders from taking photos of accident scenes, Sheriff Villanueva acknowledged.

He said he plans to push for a law change that would allow for first responders to be criminally investigated in similar incidents in the future.

Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, had personally traveled to the LCSO on Jan. 26 to request that “the area be designated a no-fly zone and protected from photographers,” her attorney, Gary Robb, told KMSB. “This was of critical importance to her as she desired to protect the dignity of all the victims, and their families.”

Sheriff Villanueva said he has apologized to the victims’ families.

California Assembly Bill 2655, titled “Invasion of Privacy: First Responders,” introduced on May 4, would make it a misdemeanor for a first responder “who responds to the scene of an accident or crime to use a personal electronic device or a device belonging to their employing agency to capture the image of a deceased person for any purpose other than an official law enforcement purpose or for a genuine public interest.”

If passed, Gibson’s new law would make taking unauthorized accident and crime scene photos punishable by up to $5,000 in fines and up to one year in the county jail.

“First responders” are defined in the legislation as state and local law enforcement, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, rescue service personnel, dispatchers, emergency managers, firefighters, coroners, or employees of a coroner*.*

“Our first responders, when responding to an emergency, should not be taking very sensitive photographs … for their own gain, for their own pleasure,” the bill’s author said. “It was unconscionable. It’s not right.”

Sheriff Villanueva has also asked the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission to help develop a new policy to prohibit deputies from taking and sharing accident and crime scene photos in the future, The Hill reported.

Comments (26)
No. 1-12
Jim H. - Virginia US
Jim H. - Virginia US

Everything is on video these days.

Why do authorities make it a priority to pass laws against first responders? Lib votes.

You don't need to make it a misdemeanor; you handle it on a case-by-case basis, and in most cases handle it with a suggestion, warning, or reprimand, as appropriate.

Such a law seems clearly unconstitutional to me. While it would be legal to discipline or terminate a first responder who posted a picture taken in public, you can't prosecute them for it. Taking pictures is allowed on all public property. If you have no security clearance, and you can legally see it with your own eyes, you can take a picture of it.

reverett456117502
reverett456117502

Gawd, can't they find something better to work on? You cannot do a one fits all law, haven't you figured that out yet? Think back in history, there are numerous time discretion MUST be used. Go out in the field once and see what it's like before you sit on your throne and pass laws, some of which make no sense!!

javaguy
javaguy

What do you spect from the democraps

Cop Watch
Cop Watch

They have allegedly told investigators that they deleted the crash site photos from their phones after Sheriff Villanueva ordered that any unauthorized pictures be destroyed.

another unlawful order. once a picture is taken it becomes a public record. even if they used there own private personal phone. so when cops use there personal phone while on duty, the whole phones data becomes public records, including NON-work related data! and is subject to a FOIA request.

“Our first responders, when responding to an emergency, should not be taking very sensitive photographs … for their own gain, for their own pleasure,” the bill’s author said. “It was unconscionable. It’s not right.”

that is the only part of this ridiculous bill i can agree with.

ScaleriBrosLawyer
ScaleriBrosLawyer

Good luck prosecuting that law. While pretty much every first response agency has a policy against this, criminally or civilly prosecuting someone for it is a different matter. If you're going to do it to first responders, you're also going to have to do it for every neckbeard '1A auditor' that shows up. Equality under the law, and all that.

Kenny.S
Kenny.S

Make a SOP in your agency, not a law. I may or may not have had a SOP named after me throughout my career. I don’t see it criminal when you as an agency can make it against policy. I think you will get more compliance on a SOP over a misdemeanor charge.

ProudLEOwife
ProudLEOwife

Civilian Oversight Commission. Looks like they forgot to put the “k” on the end. 🤷🏻‍♀️

NFPD103
NFPD103

A complete overreaction to an administrative problem, which could be fixed by department policy. Also disturbing is the family could get the air space closed off. The average Joe citizen couldn't get that done. What next, it's not ok to talk about the experience. Eventually, it will be you, can not author books or articles about these events you witnessed because they don't belong to you. They are the property of the state.

MSK
MSK

This Sheriff is an A-Hole liberal. As a former medic there were several times we would photograph a scene and send the photos electronically to the ED prior to or in conjunction with a patient arriving there so trauma doctors could see the forces applied (“kinematics”) to a patient and be better prepared to treat them.

Sgt BB
Sgt BB

Bye bye First Amendment. It no longer applies to us first responders.

Winduptoy
Winduptoy

Boys and girls you all did not read the perposed legistation. It would be unlawful to take photos for personsal use. As it should be . First responsders have may other things to do beside taking pictures at a scene for their spending money. You know that the MSM would be offering these people cash for prime first pictures and soon your first responder is snaping picts before doing his first job of helping the people involved in the incendent. No sorry I think that its a good idea. I am a retired first responder and I was required to take photos of crash sights and my agency was very stricked on who could access those photos. Would you want to see the last photo of your family members lying half naked at a crash sight in the paper or on the news before you were informed. Due your job to protect and honor the victims.

mzurkammer
mzurkammer

Questionable if that will serve Justice or create a ground swell of questionable lawsuits filed by criminals seeking a "quick payday" from the Citizens. Cops have a very demanding job with tight regulations ... don't needlessly burden them further.


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