Why are 911 calls released to the press?

There’s a recording that has hit the Internet of David Hasselhoff’s daughter calling 911 because he had collapsed from alcohol. Why are these things released to the press? We have very strong medical privacy laws in this country for most things, but then we have the government releasing recordings of calls for medical help, in order to entertain the public. If you do that, it might deter people from calling 911 for help with shameful or embarrassing problems. That’s why we have medical privacy. Why is there this exception?

Are these things being released through official channels, or are they being leaked? If the latter, then does anyone ever get fired or arrested over it?

They are released because as taxpayers, citizens have the right to know where their tax dollars (911 dispatcher and ambulance) are going. Just as they have the right to know goverment salaries.

If you know where to look you can probably read the regional 911 dispatch center’s report for your area on line, I do.

Every morning while I’m having my morning snack I read the regional dispatch report for the previous day. Tells me which agency responded, call or case number, officers name, location address of call, reason for call, resolution, and if someone gets arrested it gives their name age and address. When I was a supervisor and someone would call in sick I used to check and see if they were on the report. “I was sick”, no you were arrested for DUII. Quite an interesting read some days. If you see the police at your neighbors, you can find out if it was a domestic arguement or just cat stuck in a tree.

As for the recordings of the actual calls, probably is a matter of public record, but I don’t know about that. I do know that police reports are available upon request.

Here is what I mean, this was the report for Sunday’s activity in my little town.

http://www.astoriadispatch.org/posted/458/Monday_Press_Log.418703.pdf

If that’s the case, then everybody on Medicare should have their entire medical files posted on the Internet.

I can understand having summaries of 911 activity available, but I don’t see how releasing recordings and people’s identities helps the taxpayer in any way. And the people who call 911 are taxpayers, too.

I guess there are two options:

  1. Put out all the info.

  2. Continually argue about who is doing the “summary” and what they’re hiding.

Mostly we’ve decided on number one, not number two. That’s why, for instance, I can find out what you paid for your house, and what your real estate taxes are. Or why there are limits to how many city council members can sit in private to figure out what to do at the next meeting (if they all could meet together, it would be a council meeting without the public or the press).

Yep, I don’t know if it works this way across the country, but I can go to the county’s web site, enter any address, and find out the owners name(s), assessed value, see a map of property lines, year house way built, property taxes and if they are currently paid or behind a year or so, etc.

Or I can just search by entering any name and find all properties owned by that person and the same info.

Government web sites offer a wealth of information if you poke around, all perfectly open and legal.

In fact even the ‘very strong medical privacy laws’ that thirdname assumes we have do not exist. Read answer #1 here, then #6, #9, hell read them all. Your right to medical privacy is very limited.

http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs8b-MedFAQ.htm#8

Part of the first question regarding privacy rights:

  1. Does HIPAA guarantee privacy for my medical information?

No. This is a major misconception about privacy in general. There is no universal privacy rule, even for sensitive medical information. Any privacy you do have depends on a number of things, primarily who has your information.

If I’m not mistaken, a 9-1-1 call is not a medical consultation. It’s a conversation with a dispatcher. A more pertinent question regarding medical privacy would be whether the actions taken by EMTs in the ambulance can be released and if so under what circumstances. I doubt it, but I don’t even know what kind of consent is required for an EMT to perform emergency treatment. Any first responders out there?

Many, if not most, dispatch centers are not actually covered entities under HIPPA.

EMS providers are bound by HIPAA and other privacy laws. We’re required to notify patients of our privacy practices after they’ve been transported. There are some exceptions to absolute privacy- we can disclose medical information to other medical providers that are providing care for you (mostly a hospital) and to our billing department and your insurance company. We can use your information for quality assurance or quality improvement programs. Evidence of a crime is not protected by HIPPA. There’s more, but that what I can remember off the top of my head.

As far as consent goes, it falls under express or implied consent. Express consent is just what it sounds like. If you call 911 and you’re a sober, competent adult, you can refuse transport or any treatments that you don’t want. If you’re not sober or have another condition that impairs your judgement, then you can’t refuse.

Implied consent assumes that someone who isn’t able to consent would want us to take whatever actions are appropriate to treat/improve their condition. An unconscious person falls under implied consent. It also allows us to treat children when there’s not a parent present.

St. Urho
Paramedic

Old friends of mine were murdered. Their son has been charged. I made the mistake of listening to his call to 9-1-1 just after the shootings. It was nine minutes of hell and I couldn’t stop listening.

It is fair and just that I have the right to hear it though. The government is supposed to do its best to serve the public. It belongs to us. We pay for their record keeping. They owe all of us the truth.

I can see how this could become addictive:

PR REQUESTS CONTACT RE 3 SUBJECTS WHO WERE ON HIS PROPERTY PICKING MUSHROOMS.
THAY HAVE BEEN BACK A COUPLE OF TIMES. SUBJS ARE DRIVING A BLACK JETTA WITH IDAHO
PLATES. PR CONTACTED. MUSHROOM PICKERS WERE ON A PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAY. LOG ENTRY AT
THIS TIME SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES

GARDEN HOSE FULL OF WATER - WANTS AN OFFICER TO UNHOOK HOSE. OFFICER ADVISED.

REQ OFFICER CONTACT SUBJS IN MAROON CHEVY VAN WITH LOUD MUSIC IN PARKING LOT. PR
THINKS SUBJS MAY BE LIVING IN VEHICLE, ADVISES THEY DON’T BELONG AT THE APTS. VEHICLE
CHECKED, OFFICER WILL KEEP CHECKING THROUGH THE NIGHT.

FIRE ALARM AT HEADWORKS. FRED MICKELSON ADVISES A FALSE ALARM FROM SOMETHING
BURNING ON THE STOVE. DISREGARD

911 HANG UP CALL FROM CELL PHONE. HEARD KIDS LAUGHING. UNABLE TO CALL NUMBER BACK.
OFFICER WAS ADVISED

RPTS SUBJECT IS LEAVING THE RESIDENCE WITH SEVERAL BONGS. PR WAS CONTACTED. MATTER
WAS RESOLVED

BTW, I’m not being sarcastic, I read through the whole report - think I’ll try to find a similar site for my town.

It used to be common, in smaller communities at least, for newspapers to post a ‘public records’ thing; arrests and reasons were commonly published along with the perpetrators name and address.

I’ve moved out to the middle of nowhere and our paper comes out once a week. The police blotter is the reason anyone buys it. It is awesome!

What shocks me about the 911 calls is that they are so terrifying to hear and newscasters feel nothing about playing them to the general public.

Maybe I’m a weirdo, but I really, really find the sounds of fear/pain/panic highly uncomfortable.

Some of those calls are just chilling. I heard one call where a woman had had a persistant stalker that broke into her house, trapping her inside. She heard him outside and called the police. The police were sent as quickly as possible, but it was still not soon enough. She was on the phone with the 911 dispatcher when he finally broke into her bedroom and started stabbing her. It was a mass of screams, him yelling, the reports from her .38 as she shot him over and over. The police arrived minutes later and had to pull the body off of her to take her to the hospital. She ultimately survived. He did not.

I don’t listen to 911 calls anymore. Squicks me out too much.

They still do this around here, in the police blotter section. The teens just get their ages listed, no names.

There was a controversy over 911 calls in western Canada several years ago. Two sisters were murdered by the boyfriend of one, who had a restraining order against him. They said they called 911 and the police never showed up. Claims of prejudice were made.

The tapes were released. One of the women had called the dispatch several times. they sounded drunk. They had let the guy come in and he was sitting on the couch, apparently having a beer with them. About halfway through the second call (IIRC) the woman mentioned there was a restraining order, but it sounded like she said both parties had restraining orders against each other, so the dispatcher told her one of them would have to leave the house. The dispatcher asked if they needed a police car and she said no.

So the victims’ side sounded like this guy showed up and beat down the door to stab them, while the police ignored them. The reality was, they called 911 several times over 3 or 4 hours and were confused, did not know what they wanted, and did not specify a problem, they let the guy in, when the police came by he had left to get more beer and the women had no complaint, he came back and a while later the party got ugly.

Huge difference betweens the claims of the liberal advocates against the police, and the reality! This is what releasing tapes does - it gives you a truer picture of what happened and whether the (expensive) public service you pay for is doing its job. It’s better than cynically listening to police say “we did our job, but you can’t have the proof”.

It seems like that need could be met by providing the tapes during a trial, and/or to police internal affairs, should charges actually be made against the police, without posting the transcripts on the internet, though.

I’m kind of surprised that I haven’t heard of employers routinely checking 911 transcripts for job applicants’ addresses. It seems like an accessible way to weed out potentially problematic employees. I am not advocating this, I can see how it could run afoul of discrimination laws against women, minorities, and the disabled. But on the other hand some employers aren’t covered by those discrimination laws. Insurers and landlords might also make use of this type of information.

This seems like an appropriate area for victims’ rights and disability advocates to get involved in some improvements to privacy laws. It might be a better approach to redact personal information about victims and information related to disabilities before releasing transcripts. If it’s really necessary, it can be released in court.

I’ll be heading to St Martin in a month (yearly trip). Their papers give very detailed police reports, filled with subjective statements, but they give only peoples’ initials.

I remember one from last year:

Most of the towns are so tiny, that the info probably identifies the person.

You probably will find the Arcata Eye Police Log a fun read. Humboldt County, Northern California culture at its finest. :slight_smile:

It is very interesting, sometimes disturbing, sometime hillarious. If for no other reason but to see how our local public officers spend the day. A lot of barking dog calls, noise complaints, etc. You see calls to the dispatch that an average person would never make, but some people think that the police should be checking out everything. Investigate every parked car with a guy sitting in it. Probably some of it is post 9-11 syndrome.

Not everything makes the newspaper, and I look at it as a way to keep informed.