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Friday, April 18, 2014

Discussions at the Workshops: “Smartphones, Social Media, and Digital Cameras”

Both the fire and police tracks discuss smartphones,
social media, and digital camera issues.
The Safety & Loss Control Workshops are off and running. Consistent themes of discussion in both the fire and police track classes has been on the subject of smartphones, social media, and digital photos. The topic is formally on the agenda in both tracks, and the interest and discussion has been continuing well after class.

Litigation and Claims Special Counsel Jack Hennen addresses the subjects in his fire track presentation, “Avoiding the Big Hurt.” The subjects are also part of our human resources department’s presentation, “Avoiding the Burn—Hot HR Topics for Fire Departments.” In the police track, these subjects are part of “Keeping the Horse In Front of the Cart,” which deals with rapidly changing technology.

While each of these topics is different, there are four common themes among them:

#1. If the technology is used while working, it is most likely gathering government data. Body cameras, helmet cams, photos, text messages, and phone calls are all subject to the law. It does not matter who owns the device—it is all about the data. If it is work-related, it is government data.

#2. Government data must be maintained pursuant to the requirements of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. That includes storage, classification, and retention. Failure to follow the Act can result in adverse consequences for both the individuals involved and the city.

Jack Hennen instructs "Avoiding the Big Hurt" in Duluth.
#3. Before there is a release, dissemination, or posting of any government data or images, the department should consult with their “responsible authority” as defined in the Act.

#4. “Just because you can does not mean you should.” New information technology has made it very easy and fast to capture data, send data, and post data. The phrase “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should” is an ethical reminder about gathering and handling data.

The League now has a model social media policy for fire departments. It is part of Jack’s presentation, and you can email me at if you would like a copy.

                                             Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…The Final Report for the 2014 Safety & Loss Control Workshops

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


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