The latest video showing a confrontation between someone in public safety and a person with a camera happened Tuesday at Comic Con in San Diego (video above). As a person described as an actress from HBO’s “Game of Thrones” was being wheeled to an ambulance, videographer J.C. Playford, who was in the middle of an unrelated interview, turned his camera around to follow the action. A San Diego firefighter didn’t like what he saw and had a physical confrontation with Playford.
According to Carlos Miller with the website Photography Is Not A Crime (PINAC), Playford’s lawyer has already contacted the San Diego Fire Rescue Fire Department. Deputy Chief Stephen Ricci, assured the attorney the “matter is under investigation at this time.”
Somehow the message I’ve been sharing for years just doesn’t get across, but I will try again: Firefighters (and EMS and police) have zero legal authority to use force or to tell someone what they can or can’t shoot with their cameras when the person with the camera is standing in an area open to the public, shooting something in public view. It doesn’t matter your opinion of the photographer or how big a jerk that person may be. It doesn’t matter how much you hate the press. It doesn’t matter how how much you believe you are the protector of the rights of your patient. And before someone says it, HIPAA doesn’t you give any authority to regulate the public’s use of cameras in a public place.
There is a good chance that anyone in public safety who doesn’t heed this warning will find themselves facing disciplinary action and maybe even subject to a lawsuit they have little chance of winning. I am not a lawyer, but I read an awful lot about these cases. In fact, if you have any doubt in what I am telling you, I strongly urge you to get good legal advice.