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California bill would outlaw sharing unauthorized crime scene photos after Kobe Bryant death

California bill would outlaw sharing unauthorized crime scene photos after Kobe Bryant death

A California lawmaker wants to make it a crime for first responders to capture unauthorized photos from crime scenes, after allegations surfaced earlier this year that Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies shared graphic images from the site of a helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others.

State Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D) on Monday introduced a bill, "Invasion of privacy: first responders," that would make it a misdemeanor for a first responder to capture an image of a deceased person "for any purpose other than an official law enforcement purpose, or for a genuine public interest." 

Violating the policy could result in up to a year in jail and a fine of no more than $5,000, according to legislation's text. It will apply to local and state police officers, paramedics, firefighters and coroners, among other professions. 

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"Our first responders, when responding to an emergency, should not be taking very sensitive photographs … for their own gain, for their own pleasure,” Gipson said. “It was unconscionable. It’s not right.”

Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others died in late January after the former NBA star's helicopter crashed into a hillside outside Los Angeles. 

Just three days after his death, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy allegedly showed some patrons of a bar photos from the crime scene. A citizen complaint was later filed to the police department, The Los Angeles Times noted

Sheriff Alex Villanueva in early March said that he ordered several deputies to delete graphic photos from the site of the crash. He said at the time that the department had learned that as many as eight deputies had taken, seen or exchanged photos from the scene.

The department has since launched an investigation into the matter. 

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Villanueva also asked the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission to offer the police department input about a new policy surrounding the capturing and distribution of photos. 

The attorney of Kobe Bryant's widow, Vanessa Bryant, said in a statement in March that the photos amounted to an "unspeakable violation of human decency."

"We are demanding that those responsible for these alleged actions face the harshest possible discipline and that their identities be brought to light, to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated," Gary C. Robb said.