Members of the San Francisco Fire Department have been banned from using helmet cameras during operations after video surfaced showing firefighters running over and killing a victim of the July 2013 Oceana Airlines plane crash.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that video from Battalion Chief Mark Johnson’s helmet camera shows a fire truck running over 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan, who was lying on the ground following the crash. Johnson had apparently not been told of Yuan’s whereabouts or condition while directing the truck.
The discovery of the footage led Chief Joanne Hayes-White to expand a 2009 order banning cameras on department grounds to include helmet cameras, citing concerns over firefighters’ safety.
“The timing may not look good,” a department spokesperson told KTVU-TV. “But the fact of the matter is, this is the first helmet camera issue that’s occurred since the 2009 policy was created that [Hayes-White] was aware of.”
But Hayes-White’s order was immediately questioned by both the Black Firefighters Association (BFA), of which Johnson is a member, and an attorney for Ye’s family, Anthony Tarricone.
“Why would anybody not want to know the truth?” Tarricone told the AP. “What’s wrong with knowing what happened? What’s wrong with keeping people honest? That’s what the helmet cam did, in effect, in this case.”
Meanwhile, BFA president Kevin Smith told the AP that the department seems to be more concerned with its potential liability than with improving firefighters’ efficiency, arguing that helmet cameras help improve communications between firefighters and their commanders.
“The department should develop a progressive policy to use this tool in a way that is beneficial and not simply restrict its use,” Smith told the AP. “We are public servants, we serve the public. Why be secretive?”
Watch a report on the new policy aired on CBS Morning News on Tuesday below.