A week after brief media blackout, LAFD still seeking info on info policy


Information from the Los Angeles Fire Department is being issued freely after a stern letter from the mayor chastising the agency for shutting off the flow of facts a week ago. But the department's official Twitter voices say they want better instructions in writing.

Brian Humphrey, spokesman for the department and one of main minds behind @LAFD, said he has been seeking clarity from an office — any office — since he came back from vacation Monday.

"I have nothing in writing, other than a general order," he stated. "We keep being told something is coming...[but] we need some sense of clarity."

City offices were closed Monday for Cesar Chavez Day. Calls Humphrey has made today haven't been returned, he said.

The clampdown came last week when the department said it sought advice regarding HIPAA, a federal medical privacy law, from city attorney Carmen Trutanich's office. As a result of that advice the LAFD announced it would stop releasing most information because of its role as a health care provider.

The move was met with a sharp outcry from Mayor Antonio VIllaraigosa and other council members. VIllaraigosa wrote LAFD a letter, instructing it to continue releasing location information.

During that time, LAFD's official Twitter feeds, @LAFD and @LAFDtalk, went from a steady stream of content to varying periods of silence. Incident reports that typically contained general addresses became incident reports with no identifying information at all.

Wednesday, however, @LAFD tweets suddenly included all the details followers had come to expect.

Humphrey said despite the lack of clarity, he and his associates intend to continue tweeting as they had been before the announced policy change. And they will continue to use their best judgement. The department has never had a set of rules on what it can or cannot tweet, Humphrey said.

Additionally, Humphrey said he needs more direction than the orders that were released last week. If necessary, he plans to file a grievance with his union.

"I am trying to determine what I need to do to get something in writing," he said. "I have been speaking with my union to better determine what my rights ... are as an employee."

The advice Humphrey is seeking is in the works, said Capt. Tina Haro, a public information officer for LAFD.

"We're currently waiting for the city attorney to give us something in writing," she explained.

The city attorney's office is in the process of putting that together, said Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for that office.

The ultimate call rests with Brian Cummings, the fire chief, said both Haro and Matljian.

"The policy decision on information solely lies with the fire department," Mateljan said. "We advise them. We let them know what the law prescribes."

Humphrey said he will do his best to get a clearer understanding of the policy.

"I want to do the right thing, but there is lots of innuendo," he said.