Another Facebook Case: Posting Digital Image of Patient

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
  • stefan

    what a retard…..

  • D Payton replies:

    MFD has a digital imagery/photograpy policy since 2001.

    Prior to this incident MFD disciplined a firefighter who took an unauthorizend photograph of a motor vehicle accident scene while on duty at the emergency and posted it to facebook. The firefighter received and accepted the 4 hours disciplinary suspension after a fact finding investigation and administrative hearing.

    The MFD has drafted a social media policy that has not be distributed and needs to include a code of conduct component. As you can see, we need to extend the scope of MFD polices to clearly regulate this type of conduct on and off duty.

    In this case the “company officer” made the scene and took the alledged photograph with a personnel cell phone device without the permission of the child’s adult parent.

    The MFD also has a cell phone policy that restricts the use of personnel cell phone equipment while on duty at the scene of an emergency.

    The “medic” made the scene and transported the child later asked the company officer to email the alleged photograph to them. The “medic” posted the photogaph on the facebook page for training purposes and to show how and tell others on the private facebook page.

    When the MFD became aware of the situation, we conducted an administrative fact finding investigation and hearing that resulted in four hours disciplinary suspensions.

    The company officer appealed the suspension but later accept the decision. The medic has elected to appeal the decision that is ongoing at this time.

    We have previously “warned” others who have posted fire scene videos on the internet and youtube. I agree that discipline should be corrective in nature and that the employer must prove by a preponderance of evidence that the discipline is for just cause.

    In this case the department took corrective actions, you may or may not agree with the issurance of a 4 hour suspension. The media reported the new story several months after the incident was handled. The situation could have been more complicated if the department had not taken any corrective administrative actions.

  • Thanks Daryl

    Its is always so helpful to have such in depth information about these cases.

    For me – I think the 4 hour suspension for a first offense is adequate. It makes a statement without going overboard.

    Research has shown that increasing the severity of a penalty has less of an effect on deterrence than increasing the likelihood of catching an offender. In other words – the rules are more likely to be followed if the personnel believe they will be caught, and not because of the severity of the penalty. Making the penalty too severe may create an incentive for officers to cover up violations.

    Thanks again for the info.

  • stefan



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