SACRAMENTO, Calif --- Today, Assembly Bill 2655 by Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson) passed in the Legislature and now makes its way onto Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for his consideration. Sponsored by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, this bill would make it a misdemeanor for a first responder who responds to the scene of an accident or crime to take unauthorized photos of the deceased.
As for the genesis of the bill, after the January 26 helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, graphic images of their remains were shared by first responders for personal pleasure and in settings that had nothing to do with the investigation.
“Like many others, I was mortified after I’d heard that first responders captured and shared unauthorized photos from the scene of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gianna Bryant, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, John Altobelli, Christina Mauser, and Ara Zobayan,” said Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson. “The actions of the first responders involved were unacceptable, and they highlighted a problem that demands a strong remedy.”
Current law generally supports a reasonable amount of privacy for deceased persons from having photos taken of them by a coroner or during an autopsy reproduced, but does not prohibit first responders from capturing the image of a deceased person for any purpose. The bill states that any first responder in violation could face a misdemeanor penalty with fines of up to $1000 per offense.
“With AB 2655, I took on a great responsibility to ensure that those who are trusted to secure scenes of great disaster and death are not abusing their power for personal pleasure, and the privacy and dignity of the deceased and those closest to them is not to be toyed with - it must be protected. My heart truly goes out to their loved ones who have continued to grieve such unimaginable loss, as well as to others who have endured similar pain.”
After now having made its way through both the Assembly and the Senate with unanimous bi-partisan support, AB 2655 will soon make its way to Governor Newsom's desk for his consideration to either sign or veto it.