Maintaining professionalism in the information age
It's the public's right to record events if they occur in plain sight, no matter how irritating that can be.
We live — and work — in an information age. It's easy to create, capture, and control information. This includes video that can be generated on even the simplest cell phone.
Such technology has been around for awhile now — the Rodney King incident happened more than 20 years ago — and it has made life more challenging for public safety workers.
The issue is back in the spotlight this week with a woman alleging misconduct on the part of paramedics and police who responded to a call at her apartment complex.
The irony is, it's almost irrelevant what "fact" or "truth" is recorded. What matters is how viewers interpret what they see.
It's too easy to manipulate or censor the recording; if a news outlet is intent on creating a sensational story to lead that evening's headlines, this type of video is perfect fodder.
What can we do about this? It's the public's right to record events if they occur in plain sight, no matter how irritating that can be. HIPAA and other privacy issues may not apply in these situations.
So, confiscating or trying to block the view of the recorder is rarely helpful.
Additionally, it's simple to take an event out of context by conveniently only showing the segment of interest, and not the whole incident.
Frankly, we don’t know what happened prior to this recording, and — going back to my original point — it doesn’t really matter. The viewing public will be fixated by what they see on television or online.
In the end remember that we are public safety providers. We work in the public eye.
Professionalism means making things boring for the person who is motivated to record the first "wrong" deed — doing your job so well that, even when things go sour, you still exhibit that behavior that connotes that you aren't ruffled, angry or uncaring.
Look at this another way — do you want a few seconds of video branding you for the rest of your career?