Do you have a policy regarding Department Photography?

Every day there are thousands of on-duty photos being posted on social media by Fire Services employees.

Recently on social media I saw a rainy day photo, posted by a Captain, of a probationary employee sitting at the community table in a fire station wearing a foil hat with a caption referring to firefighter being used as an “aerial.” Everyone is all smiles and in the scheme of things this probably is indicative of the harmless goings on in fire stations across the country.

Let’s look “big picture” and take into consideration the probationary employee is a protected class and the fact that you are most likely to be sued by a protected class employee with less than seven years on the job.  How “harmless” is this photo now?  Sure, in depositions you’ll testify to culture, esprit de corps, and morale etc… all of the rationalization that will pale in comparison to the testimony of an employee who was singled out by a supervisor and targeted for humiliation based on protected class status.

At the very least Fire Service agencies should consider that on-duty photos/recordings are the property of the agency and should not be disseminated in any way without the knowledge and consent of the Chief.  Many of the photos I see from my firefighter friends depict bravery and operational skills. The policy should encourage employees to forward these photos/recordings for display on the agency’s social media. Once they appear the employee can then display then as they see fit. (Consideration should also be given to profitting from on-duty photos/recordings).

Social media is a clear and present danger in Fire Services. Implementing and enforcing a department photo/recording policy will not be easy and there will be bumps along the way. When was that last time that stopped you from protecting your agency and your employees?