A Colorado state representative has proposed a bill that would make it illegal for police to interfere with a citizen journalist’s right to film them in public.
House Bill 15-1290, introduced by Rep. Joe Salazar, (D-Thornton), aims to protect the public’s right to film by prohibiting police officers from interfering with the recording of another officer.
“Primarily, it came up as a result of the number of news reports we’ve been seeing about police officers telling people, ‘Give me your camera,’ or taking the data away, and that is unacceptable conduct,” Rep. Salazar told 7News Denver.
The bill proposes a $15,000 civil penalty to be paid to “the person who recorded the peace officer incident,” and would make it illegal for police to destroy footage, seize cameras without consent or a warrant or interfere or retaliate against the person recording.
“It takes a very special person to be a police officer,” Salazar stated. “We want to honor them, but at the same time, we have a few bad apples who need to be aware that their conduct now has major, major consequences.”
A Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police spokesperson told 7News Denver it is opposed to the $15,000 penalty because legislation already exists to assess an officer’s actions.
Despite countless instances in which footage captured by citizen journalists has proven effective at holding police accountable for their actions, some US states have recently introduced legislation that would impose restrictions on a person’s right to film police.
Montana House Bill 633 would require a person to obtain a $100 permit, valid for 6 months, in order to film police. Additionally it would allow law enforcement agencies to retain “full control over the content of any recording,” and enables police the discretion to “approve… any edited version of the content before the content or edited content may be aired.”
A bill recently introduced in Texas, H.B. No 2918, also sought to relegate the act of filming police within 25 feet to members of a rigidly defined set of “news media.”
In contrast, emerging social media-linked phone apps like Periscope and Meerkat allow smart phone users to stream live feeds of breaking news events to other users, instantenously allowing people around the world access to unedited footage and significantly increasing the power of citizen journalists.