There is an interesting case out of Florida where a Deputy Austin Douglas, 29, has been fired and arrested after officials say he texted photos of a suicide victim to his ex-girlfriend’s cell phone. The termination is understandable but the criminal charge is relatively rare.
Douglas has been charged with being a custodian providing unauthorized photograph or video or audio recording that depicts or records the killing of a person. I found the public record law barring such use but not the underlying criminal provision.
There are cases where I believe termination is clearly warranted that we have discussed earlier (and here). Moreover, such unprofessional and unethical use of photographs present a serious liability question for police departments.
The picture was from a Feb. 19 suicide. After his ex-girlfriend asked how his weekend was going, he sent the image to show it was not going well. She then reported him to authorities and gave them the picture. Douglas is reportedly in the midst of a custody battle with the ex-girlfriend and she may have now guaranteed that he will not only be convicted but lose custody of their children. It appears that vengeance remains a dish best served cold.
Douglas worked for the sheriff’s office since 2006.