Should Agencies Be Required to Turn 9-1-1 Calls Over to the Media?

posted by Jim Forsyth - 

Emotional testimony before a State Senate committee which is looking into a proposal to bar some 9-1-1 calls from being obtained by the media, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Jonathan McComb's entire family was lost then their home was swept away by raging flood waters in Wimberly in 2016, and he recalls the pain of hearing his wife and children's dying words played over and over again on radio and television newscasts.

"Before I even had a chance to have a proper burial for my family, the news media was playing my wife Laura's 9-1-1 recordings over and over," he said.

9-1-1 calls have been ruled by the courts to be 'public record' which means, unless they contain protected information, like national security information or the names of suspects not publicly named, they must be turned over to reporters under the Freedom of Information Act.

The McComb case was particularly frightening, with the victims screaming and asking for help as they were carried to their deaths down the flooded river.

"What possible benefit does this provide to anyone," he asked.  "What good will come from that, and why?"

Suppoters of the proposed law say, with most 9-1-1 calls being made from cell phones, victims of crimes and disasters are today more likely to make the calls than the passive witnesses who would make them in the past.

That means more and more 9-1-1 calls will include dramatic dying declarations which, while sensational for the media, could be painful for survivors.

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