Fire chief temporarily bans helmet cameras

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by TONY PLOHETSKI/KVUE NEWS

kvue.com

Posted on October 11, 2013 at 6:32 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 11 at 6:41 PM

AUSTIN -- Austin fire officials have placed a temporary ban on cameras. The ban would cover cameras firefighters sometimes wear on protective helmets, until they can develop rules about their use.

According to a memo obtained by the KVUE Defenders, and the Austin American-Statesman, Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr placed the moratorium to allow a special committee to answer questions addressing matters such as invasion of privacy. The inquest will also address laws about where photographs can be taken. The committee will look at laws regarding consent among patients in medical emergencies as well.

"There is great opportunity with the helmet cameras. As long as that tool is used properly,” said Harry Evans, the department’s chief of staff.

Last month, KVUE News and the American-Statesman reported that the Austin Fire Department did not have a specific helmet camera policy. Although it does have rules that prevent firefighters from posting certain kinds of video on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

Some cities nationally, including San Antonio and Houston, have banned the devices amid concerns that included privacy.

Austin fire officials said they hope that firefighters can begin using the cameras again, once rules are in place.

“Lately, there has been considerable discussion regarding helmet camera use,” Kerr wrote in the memo. “We agree that using a helmet camera will provide substantial value in many areas, as we strive to be the best department in the country.”

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