New bill looking to protect Indiana firefighter privacy

New bill looking to protect Indiana firefighter privacy
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 6:34 PM CST
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Right now, anyone can find the address and name of an Evansville firefighter online, it’s public record.

The same doesn’t apply to an Evansville police officer or someone like the mayor.

District 78 State Representative Tim O’Brien is looking to change that with House Bill 1578.

“House Bill 1578 simply allows for firefighters, both paid and volunteer, to be listed as covered persons,” says O’Brien.

A “covered person” is someone who can hide information like an address or phone number from the public record.

Under current law, firefighters don’t qualify, even the one who inspired this bill.

“In Evansville, we had a firefighter who was attacked in the line of duty,” explains O’Brien.

After a firefighter was stabbed in the face in 2021, he got stitched up and finished his shift.

He eventually had to testify against the man who had stabbed him.

“When the prosecution was followed through and a sentence was served, the firefighter was concerned that the perpetrator might retaliate,” says Evansville Fire Department Chief Mike Connelly.

“He feared for the safety of his family, and wanted to try to reach out to the assessor and try to conceal his information, and he wasn’t able to do so,” explains O’Brien.

So House Bill 1578 was born.

It was taken to committee Tuesday by O’Brien with Chief Connelly, Firefighter’s Union President Larry Zuber, and the firefighter himself who was attacked all present.

It passed unanimously, a change that Connelly says is long overdue.

“It’s taken two years to get to this point where we can provide that particular area of protection for the firefighter,” says Connelly.

There’s a reason they’re still working to make a change all this time later, Connelly says fire crews are a part of the tip of the spear, and he’ll continue to advocate for them.

“This is just another measure that we can take to protect our members,” says Connelly.