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Does SFFD’s sudden ban on helmet cameras pass the smell test?

Monday, August 19, 2013

An image from the helmet-mounted video camera of a San Francisco fire battalion chief at the scene of the crash of Asiana Flight 214 shows a firefighter covering the body of passenger Ye Meng Yuan at San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013 in San Francisco, California.Talk about politically tone-deaf timing: San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White has banned firefighters from using helmet-mounted video cameras after one such camera recorded the tragedy of 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan being run over and killed by an SFFD truck on the tarmac after last month’s Asiana flight 214 crash. (That’s one of the helmet images, showing the girl’s body being covered, and which was later published in the Chronicle.) Her argument: they pose a threat to privacy for the public and for firefighters who wear them. Huh?

On private property where, say, children are present, and where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy by law, maybe. But in public places (like the crash scene at SFO) that argument doesn’t wash. Critics are already calling the ban a preemptive move by the department to cover its backside during future miscues.

Here’s what Anthony Tarricone, a lawyer for the Ye family, tells Jaxon Van Derbeken at the Chronicle:

"Why would anybody not want to know the truth? What's wrong with knowing what happened? What's wrong with keeping people honest?

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