The Oregonian today published an outstanding OpEd from a citizen, commenting on Senate Bill 346. Thanks to Ted Olson of Tualatin for writing this excellent column. It's interesting that the comments on this and the previous OpEd from broadcasters are overwhelmingly in favor of caller privacy.
Here is the column I was planning to submit before reading Ted's:
If you call 9-1-1 to ask for help on the worst day of your life, for instance if a loved one is having a medical emergency and dies, would you want journalists to be the ones deciding whether to post and broadcast the tape of your call on the Internet, radio and TV? Or would you want to have the right to give your permission for the tape to be released and broadcast?
I believe the caller to 9-1-1 should be the one to decide whether to release the tape of the call to the media for public broadcast. Often highly sensitive medical information is discussed in emergency calls. Callers are asked about drug and alcohol use and history. The unusual behaviors of people with mental illnesses are often described. Senate Bill 346 gives callers the right to choose whether to allow media broadcast of their 9-1-1 call.
Far too often, 9-1-1 calls are played for their prurient nature. The broadcasters’ association code of ethics for 9-1-1 calls is only a series of questions to consider rather than clear direction as to whether or not broadcast of a recording would be appropriate. The association has no oversight or ability to reprimand those who ignore or interpret their voluntary code in an objectionable manner.
Broadcasters are trying to make this about the 9-1-1 operators, but it is not. It is about you, the caller, who has just been the victim of a crime, or witnessed a crime, or has a family member having a medical emergency or mental health crisis. Should your privacy be protected so that YOU control whether your call is broadcast to the world on perhaps the worst day of your life? That is what this Senate Bill 346 attempts to accomplish.
Under the proposed legislation, calls could still be broadcast if the caller gives permission to release the tape to the public. The tape would be available for use in law enforcement, training purposes, lawsuits and labor disputes. Transcripts of the call would also be available to the public. To be clear: if a caller believes that an operator did not manage the call correctly, the caller could grant permission for the recording to be released and broadcast. In situations where the caller would like the call broadcast due to the heroism or bravery shown, they could also provide their permission.
Currently, callers have no right to privacy. I believe that is wrong. Senate Bill 346 is common sense legislation designed to protect victims and provide privacy to callers. I urge the Legislature to pass it.