One week after the controversial media blackout on L.A. Fire Department response times and addresses — ordered by Fire Chief Brian Cummings — is the department overcompensating for its much-ridiculed secrecy?
LAFD photographers Rick McClure and Mike Meadows snapped some insane photos of a train vs. Mercedes Benz crash two Saturdays ago, on the same weekend as the blackout began. (Our favorites below.)
But they were just posted to the department's Flickr account this week…
… after L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gave Cummings a stern order to revert to a more open media policy.
The fire chief's totally bogus excuse for the blackout — which suspiciously dropped amid an LAFD scandal over faltering emergency-response times — was that the L.A. City Attorney had warned him against disclosing any injured person's accident details to the press. Cummings argued that “the Department must comply with HIPAA and is only permitted to release Protected Health information (PHI) for the purposes of treatment, and operations under the HIPAA Privacy Rule without the patient's permission.”
The City Attorney's Office later denied anything had changed, and multiple First Amendment attorneys attested that the HIPAA excuse was BS.
So, given the gruesome photo stream that has resumed on the LAFD Flickr account, victim privacy was either never a concern at all, or Chief Cummings is trying to teach us some sort of lesson.
Either way, they're freaking awesome.
[Update: Brian Humphrey, LAFD spokesman, has asked us to kindly take McClure's photos down until we get his permission. Until then, they can be viewed here. Meadows has kindly allowed us to post his.]
The department's description of the crash and rescue:
On March 17, 2012, a Metro Blueline & Mercedes Benz collided at the 400 block of Venice Boulevard in downtown LA. Los Angeles Firefighters worked relentlessly to free a trapped person. Approximately a half dozen were injured, treated & transported to hospitals by firefighters.
Given, photographers McClure and Meadows did take the photos independently of the LAFD. But they're posted to the LAFD blog, under the official LAFD logo. If nothing else, they serve to remind us how ridiculous the whole HIPAA argument was in the first place.