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Montville volunteer fire company PIO charged with taking unauthorized photos of crime or accident victims

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Montville — Chesterfield Fire Company Public Information Officer Steven Frischling claims that he was arrested for doing his job.

He was arrested Tuesday night at his home in Niantic and charged with two counts of "unauthorized taking or transmission by first responders of images of crime or accident victims," according to state police arrest logs.

Frischling, 45, is accused of posting pictures of motor vehicle accident victims on social media, according to the logs. He was processed at Troop E and released on a court-set $1,000 bond and is scheduled to appear at Norwich Superior Court on April 15.

A state police criminal information summary said the Montville Police Department began investigating a Facebook post from Frischling on Feb. 7.

"Through the course of the investigation, the accused ... was found to have posted photographs of victims at an accident scene on social media websites without permission," the summary reads. Montville police, with the assistance of East Lyme police, arrested him at his home.

Reached by phone Tuesday night, Frischling said he was arrested in front of his children. He believes the arrest has something to do with an "axe to grind" against him related in part to his tense relationship with former town fire marshal Bill Bundy. Bundy declined to comment for this story.

Frischling argues that he is exempt from this charge because his job demands he takes photos of emergency situations including accidents.

Connecticut law says first responders cannot shoot photos of accident victims.

"The exemption however is if it's a part of your job duties," Frischling said. "So they came to my house and had me arrested in front of my children for doing my job, which the law says I'm able to do."

The Chesterfield Fire Co. PIO public Facebook page, run by Frischling, announced the arrest Tuesday night.

"Although 53-341c specifically allows for the photography of accident victims by those carrying out their duties, including Public Information Officer, the two images in question by Lt. (Dave) Radford, shot and transmitted on the 6th of February 2021, show no visibly identifiable victim in the images," Frischling says on Facebook. "Furthermore neither image violated HIPAA laws. Whenever an accident or incident is photographed by PIO Frischling great care is taken to make sure the privacy of victims is not compromised. Images are either captured from angles where a victim cannot be identified or are digitally manipulated to hide their identities."

Frischling plans to continue on in his role going forward, he said Tuesday night.

"While tonight's situation is unfortunate, with Montville Police Lt. Radford directing police officers to arrest and handcuff Chesterfield PIO Frischling in front of his children as he arrived home, it does not deter the mission of the Chesterfield Fire Company PIO," Frischling wrote on Facebook from the Chesterfield Fire Co. PIO page.

Frischling spoke with The Day as he was driving home from being taken in to be processed Tuesday night. In the car was Chesterfield Fire Co. Chief Keith Truex. Frischling said members of the fire company are behind him.

Truex reiterated Wednesday that he and the rest of the company are standing with Frischling.

Radford did not provide further comment beyond confirming the arrest.

s.spinella@theday.com

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