Newsom signs law against first responders taking pictures following death of Kobe Bryant
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday signed into law legislation that makes it illegal for first responders to take unauthorized pictures of people killed at the scene of an accident or crime, The Associated Press reported.
The measure was first proposed in May following the January helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight other people. After the accident, local deputies were accused of taking and sharing graphic photos of the victims from the crash site.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at the time that he had ordered the images to be deleted, adding that while the department had a policy prohibiting capturing and sharing crime scene photos, this guideline did not apply to accident scenes.
State Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D), who introduced the bill, “Invasion of privacy: first responders,” said in May that police and other emergency personnel taking and sharing photos from accident scenes is “unconscionable” and “not right.”
“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 at the time.
The new law, set to take effect on Jan. 1, will make it “a misdemeanor for a first responder, as defined, who responds to the scene of an accident or crime to capture the photographic image of a deceased person for any purpose other than an official law enforcement purpose or a genuine public interest.”
The law stipulates that a first responder can be required to pay fines of up to $1,000 per offense for taking or sharing any such photograph.
Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office last week over staffers allegedly taking and sharing unauthorized photos of the site of the crash that killed her husband and their 13-year-old daughter.
The lawsuit is requesting damages for negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“This lawsuit is about accountability and about preventing this disgraceful behavior from happening to other families in the future who have suffered loss,” Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, said in a statement to ESPN. “The department formally refused Mrs. Bryant’s requests for information, saying it was ‘unable to assist’ with any inquiry and had no legal obligation to do so. It’s now for a court to tell the department what its obligations are.”