While a Texas legislator has introduced a bill that would make it illegal to video record cops in public, a pair of Colorado legislators have introduced a bill that would protect citizens from cops who seize their cameras or destroy their footage.
The Coloradan legislators are democrat, but their bill is part of a ten-bill bipartisan package seeking police reform.
Democratic representative Joe Salazar, who is co-sponsoring the bill with democratic representative Daneya Esgar, said the bill has received republican support.
And the Texan legislator is republican, but he is receiving a bipartisan backlash, as pointed out by the right-wing site, Brietbart, which rarely, if ever, criticizes republicans.
Hopefully, these bipartisan efforts to curb police abuse by ensuring transparency are the beginning of a trend.
The Colorado bill, which you can read here, states that if a cop seizes a camera from a citizen without permission or a warrant or deliberately interferes with a citizen’s right to record by intimidation or destruction of the camera, the citizen is entitled to $15,000 in civil fees in addition to attorney fees.
It doesn’t go as far as to force the cop to pay the money out of his pocket or docking his salary, but it does guarantee compensation to citizens who normally don’t receive damages, considering the courts tend to view damages as injuries sustained through police abuse or emotional distress from being jailed on false charges.
Many lawyers won’t even take a case if it’s simply a cop using his authority to intimidate a citizen recording if it doesn’t involve incarceration or physical abuse, which is why so many cops abuse their power, knowing they will get away with it.
According to ABC 7 :
“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,” said Rep. Joe Salazar, a Democrat from Thornton and co-sponsor of the bill.
Salazar said House Bill 15-1290 has support from both Democrats and Republicans, and is not intended to penalize police.
“It takes a very special person to be a police officer,” Salazar said. “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.”
Salazar said one incident that caught his attention was a woman’s claims that Denver Police prevented her daughter from filming what happened after Jessica Hernandez, a 17-year-old in a stolen car, was shot.
Bobbie Ann Diaz lives right in front of the Park Hill ally where it happened in January. One of her daughter’s was in the car with Hernandez and another daughter, Brianna, came outside with Diaz after they heard the gunshots.
Diaz said an officer stopped her after she left her yard, telling her he would arrest her if she didn’t cooperate.
“The officer had me apprehended, he wouldn’t let me go,” Diaz said.
She said she yelled to Brianna, who was still on their property, behind a fence, to record what was happening as officers pulled a lifeless Hernandez from the car.
“At that time, (the officers) put Jessie down and they were on their knees yelling at Brianna that she better not record. She better not,” Diaz said. “She got scared. She got intimated. These are big officers and she didn’t want to make things worse.”
Diaz said, at that time, she wasn’t aware that citizens have every right to record police as long as they are not interfering with an investigation.
“I wanted to cooperate with them,” she said. “And I didn’t know it was our right to keep recording on our property.”
Meanwhile, Texas representative Jason Villalba is sticking to his guns, despite the backlash, which he says has resulted in death threats, saying he has been forced to block Twitter trolls, including a journalist seeking an interview.
Villalba claims he is only trying to protect cops with his bill, which can be read here, and would make it illegal to record them within 25 feet, a law that would not only be unconstitutional, but be easily manipulated when a cop comes charging at a citizen recording from 25 feet away.
Another bill in Texas which has not gotten nearly as much publicity comes from democratic representative Eric Johnson, which seeks to protect citizens from bullying officers as well as criminalize cops who confiscate cameras, only to destroy footage.
And in California, Democratic Senator Ricardo Lara introduced a bill, which can be read here, that would clarify Penal Codes 69 and 148, obstruction charges that are frequently used against citizens recording cops, by adding language to these laws specifying that recording cops is not a violation of these laws.
Considering numerous court decisions have already ruled that recording cops in public is protected by the First Amendment, there shouldn’t be a need for new laws.
But considering cops have willfully ignored these rulings indicates we probably need a federal law to go along with all the state laws just to remind them that they are not above the law.