A public information officer for the Chesterfield Fire Company in Montville who was arrested after posting photographs of a vehicle accident scene in 2021 had his charges dismissed by Superior Court Judge Arthur C. Hadden.
“This case should never have been brought,” said Mario Cerame, a free speech attorney with the firm Brignole, Bush and Lewis, LLC, who represented Chesterfield Fire Company’s Public Information Officer Steven Frischling. “This two-year fight was an epic waste of taxpayer dollars and Court resources.”
Frischling argued he was simply doing his job, keeping the public informed about what was happening when he took photographs of an accident scene and posted them to the fire company’s public information officer Facebook page in February of 2021.
A month later, police arrested him under a state statute that prohibits first responders from photographing individuals or family members who they are assisting at scene without their consent “other than in the performance of his or her duties,” with punishment of up to one year in jail or a fine of up to $2,000.
Police said that Frischling’s photographs included “occupants of the vehicles,” and a second photo “depicted a male standing next to an individual strapped to a stretcher,” according to the CT Post.
While the pictures, which remain on Facebook, show first responders working at the scene, Frischling argued no one was identifiable in the photos. An attorney for the victim of the crash had informed Montville Police that the victim had never authorized the photos to be posted and that it affected a young member of the family, according to CT Post.
According to a press release Cerame, Frischling “has always maintained that the photographs taken were consistent with his job duties and FEMA guidelines for Public Information Officers.”
“We are of course pleased with the judgement,” Cerame said. “Publishing photos like this lets the public know that the Fire Department is an authoritative source for what is going on in an emergency in the community. It enhances government transparency.”
Frischling remains the public information officer for Chesterfield Fire Company and said he is evaluating his options for possible litigation moving forward.