City policy restricts LFFD use of personal camera phones, etc. on emergency calls

By Terry LehrkeNews Editor

A new policy in effect in Little Falls restricts members of the Little Falls Fire Department (LFFD) from using their personal camera phones and video to record scenes during calls.

The policy restricts the use so photos of gruesome accident scenes are not shared publicly or through social media.

City Attorney Toni Wetzel said the policy was in response to issues attorneys and cities are having with police officers, deputies, firefighters and ambulance responders going to gruesome crashes, taking photos with their personal phones and putting the photos on Facebook or social media.

“Of course, that could cause significant problems in getting back to family members when their loved ones are splattered all over a highway,” said Wetzel.

“That’s a significant concern for the city. You would not think one would need a policy for this,” said Wetzel. “One would think it is common sense and common courtesy not to do that, but they’re (attorneys and others cities) starting to have a problem with it.”

Wetzel said the policy was to help tackle it before it becomes a problem. “It’s a pretty sensitive issue,” she said.

Firefighters and emergency services personnel take photos to document a scene. The policy does not prevent that.

“Obviously Chief (Mike) Nieman’s firefighters need to document the scene,” said Wetzel. “That’s a work-type photo … the data practices act will determine whether it’s public or private.”

The policy lays out what type of documentation is accepted while on the scene of an incident.

Having the policy brings the city into compliance, she said. “And there’s no sneaking around doing things that are off-duty, that’s the concern of the policy,” said Wetzel.

The Little Falls City Council approved the policy and learned that the same sort of policy is being put together for the Police Department as well.