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'Joshua's Law' would prohibit first responders' from snapping, sharing photos

By JC Reindl

Publication: The Day

Published May 13. 2011 4:00AM
Pictures taken by New London police officer, then shared, led to proposed legislation

Hartford - The state Senate voted 29-5 Thursday to adopt a bill that would prohibit police officers, paramedics and other first responders from photographing victims at accident and crime scenes, or forwarding such photos to others.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, and state Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, among others, was drafted in response to a 2009 incident in which an officer of the New London Police Department photographed a 21-year-old man who died of a heroin overdose at the city's Red Roof Inn and then forwarded the photos via cellphone.

"This is such a violation of this young man and a violation of his family," Stillman told her Senate colleagues. "First responders are people we do trust. Due to the fact that those pictures were circulated, that trust was violated."

Officer Jeffrey Nichols was fired from the department on July 13, 2009, and was later reinstated after the state Board of Mediation and Arbitration ruled that termination was too extreme a punishment.

Supporters nicknamed the legislation "Joshua's Law," in reference to the overdose victim, Joshua Rogers, a Connecticut National Guard member who was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan.

His parents, Robert and Nancy Rogers of Waterford, have been outspoken supporters of the bill, which still requires approval by the House.

"We've been watching the session all day, and I can't tell you how pleased we are," Nancy Rogers said Thursday evening. "It's been a long road, and we just hope that it's finalized in the House."

The couple filed a lawsuit in 2010 against Nichols and the city of New London, claiming invasion of privacy and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Rogers said Thursday that the lawsuit is "on hold" awaiting passage of the bill.

Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, voted against the bill after voicing concerns that it may complicate the efforts of first responders to reconstruct accident scenes.

However, the bill would apply to photos that are taken "other than in the performance of [a first responder's] duties."

The bill sets penalties of up to a year in prison or a fine of up to $2,000.

j.reindl@theday.com

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