On Sunday, a major metropolitan newspaper had an article exposing fire department members who posted photos on the Web of accident and murder victims.

We're sure that such gory photos get a lot of viewers on the social sites, but that doesn't mean posting them is the right or ethical thing to do - especially by emergency responders.

It's unlikely such a practice happens much around here. Most fire chiefs and ambulance crews have policies in place preventing the posting of such photos.

A more pressing problem at scenes of emergencies is bystanders getting out their cell phones and snapping photos, especially if a body is visible, and making internet postings.

Emergency crews make every effort to protect accident victims from the cameras.

But photos posted by firefighters, police officers, or ambulance crew members is what has to stop. These responders are entrusted to act discreetly, handle their tasks in confidence, show respect for the deceased and their families, and not even take photos unless they are doing so for investigative purposes.

Perhaps lawmakers should introduce legislature calling for large fines for emergency responders - firefighters, police, ambulance personnel, and coroners' office representatives - who do post photos of bodies on the internet.

In addition, anyone caught doing this should be barred from responding with any such volunteer unit and fired from any any paid responding corps.

Again, this doesn't appear to be a problem locally. But a search on the internet indicates such a practice is occurring nationwide.

One reason police officers don't immediately release names of accident victims to the media is so that family members of the victims don't hear of a tragedy by reading it in the newspaper or hearing it on television. Instead, the officers deliver the news in an appropriate manner.

When photos are involved, the matter becomes even more touchy. There's no reason a family should be subjected to photos of mangled bodies on the internet at any time. How horrible for the relatives of the victim. You wouldn't want to imagine your son or daughter or parent subjected to such an occurrence.

How low for those firefighters or emergency responders to post pictures of victims on the internet!

What's just as bad as that we as a society enjoy looking at such photos.

It's always sad when an accident, fire, or some other emergency results in deaths. The heartbreak is compounded when the permanent posting of photos on the Web occurs.

Families deserve some protection and legislature preventing emergency responders from acting unethically is at least a step in the right direction.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]