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Critiques of LAFD's new info release policy continue and questions remain

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Frank Stoltze/KPCC

The Los Angeles Fire Department has been under fire recently due to discrepancies in its reporting times and failures of its communications equipment. Now it's taking heat for a new information release policy.

Confusion surrounding the LAFD's new information policy is continuing, as is the criticism.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday ordered the city's fire department to halt a new policy withholding key information on emergencies until it gets a written opinion from the city attorney's office. Earlier this week, the LAFD suddenly stopped providing real-time updates about emergencies it responds to, citing federal health privacy law.

In the meantime, city council members and media organizations bashed the new policy, and it remained unclear how it was being implemented.

Initially, fire officials refused to confirm even basic details about incidents earlier this week. Then it began using its Twitter feed to report incidents by block number with some basic information. Before the policy was disclosed, the Twitter feed had revealed specific addresses of incidents, and the sex and ages of victims. No messages have been sent from the account since about 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Among other outcries from media organizations, the Radio and TV News Association of Southern California sent a letter to LAFD's chief, Brian Cummings, protesting the change and calling it dangerous [PDF].

Multiple calls to LAFD spokespeople have not been returned, but KPCC is working on clearing up some questions, including whether LAFD will bow to Villaraigosa's demand, whether it has to under the law, and how the LAFD will proceed with public updates.

In any case, some of the questions might be answered at a hearing tomorrow of the L.A. City Council's Public Safety Committee, which is scheduled to question the department about this, and recently revealed problems with the its response times and communications equipment.

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