Supervisors Require New Training Regarding First Responder Photographs

Los Angeles, CA – Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn regarding new trainings for LA County Firefighters, paramedics, and Sheriff’s deputies about new County policies prohibiting photographs of human remains.

Hahn’s motion is a follow-up to a previous motion she authored August, shortly after a jury ordered Los Angeles County to pay $35 million to Kobe Bryan’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, and Chris Chester for failing to prevent the taking and sharing of photos of their deceased loved ones at the site of a 2020 helicopter crash.

“Our failure to prevent those photos from being taken hurt Vanessa Bryant and Chris Chester as well as LA County taxpayers who ultimately had to foot the bill of the massive settlements,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “It is important that have new policies for our first responders on the books, but those policies will only be as effective as the training that comes along with them.  We need all our current first responders and every new hire to be educated about what these new policies mean and trained explicitly in what is expected of them.”

Both the Fire Department and Sheriff’s Department have new policies that explicitly address prohibited behavior regarding photographs and recordings at scenes where human remains are present. The Sheriff’s Department adopted a new policy in July 2020 regarding the photographing of human remains which requires personnel to preserve the dignity and privacy of the deceased and their family and prohibits photographs of human remains unless by certain authorized personnel. The Fire Department has not yet implemented their new policy, but it has been finalized and has gone through the review process with labor. They plan to implement the new policy in January 2023. The new policy will address all types of employee photography, the use of recording devices, and posting on social media. It also strictly prohibits photographs of deceased persons or human remains.

“As first responders, it is imperative we provide the highest level of care while maintaining the trust and confidentiality of the people we proudly serve,” said Los Angeles County Interim Fire Chief Anthony C. Marrone.  “Passing this motion solidifies our ongoing commitment to the communities we swore an oath to and will allow us to continue preserving an individual and family’s rights to dignity and privacy.”

Hahn’s motion, which was approved today in a 5-0 vote, directs the Fire Department and requests the Sheriff’s Department to report back in writing in 45 days with their plans to develop and implement training of the new policies pertaining to on-scene and incident photography. The reports will detail how each department plans to train both new hires and current employees on the new policies in a way that will provide all department members with clear guidance on the application of the new policies.