Assemblymember Torres (D-Chino)
Should 911 calls be a matter of public record? The recent scandal over a 911 phone call placed by friends of the actress Demi Moore (as Moore suffered convulsions in the next room) has raised the question. Now Assemblywoman Norma Torres, (D-CA’s 61st District) and a former 911 dispatcher, has introduced AB1275, a bill “to stop 911 calls that disclose a medical condition from reaching the public.” Those in favor of preventing 911 calls from going public argue it endangers lives because people are afraid to give accurate details to 911 dispatchers for fear of “public exposure.” On the other hand, those who want to keep 911 records public argue that celebrities like Moore are “outliers,” that federal medical privacy law already covers some of what Torres’ bill would, and that – considering slowdowns in the dispatch process due to jurisdictional haggling or just poor judgment on the part of dispatchers – what we really need is more oversight of 911 calls, not less.
Would a privacy bill get in the way of getting people the help they need? Would the fact that a 911 call is a matter of public record discourage you from making a phone call for a friend or family member in need?
Assemblywoman Norma Torres, D-CA’s 61st District; sponsor of AB 1275, which was introduced last week and if passed, would stop 911 calls that disclose a medical condition from reaching the public
Jack Lerner, professor at the USC Law School specializing in technology and intellectual property law