Denver, CO — While Texas lawmakers are trying to make filming the police illegal, Colorado is taking a much better approach.
A package of bills that are designed to increase police oversight have been introduced in the Colorado Legislature. One of the measures included in the package would impose up to $15,000 in civil penalties for cops who interfere with someone trying to film them.
“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.
According to 7 News Denver, 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.”
One of the incidents that caught the attention of Salazar was the case of Bobbie Ann Diaz. Diaz was trying to film what happened after police shot and killed 17-year-old Jessica Hernandez.
As Diaz was trying to film the incident, she says an officer stopped her and threatened her with arrest if she continued to film.
“At that time, (the officers) put Jessie down and they were on their knees yelling 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 didn’t know that she was protected by law to film the police as long as she wasn’t interfering with their investigation.
“I wanted to cooperate with them,” she said. “And I didn’t know it was our right to keep recording on our property.”
Predictably, this legislation is being met with opposition from police groups.
7News Denver Reports:
A spokesperson for the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police said, while it recognizes citizens’ rights to record law enforcement, it is opposed to the fine of up to $15,000 because there is already a court process that determines whether an officer acted appropriately.
“There’s already an existing process,” said Wheat Ridge Police Chief Dan Brennan. “It don’t think it’s appropriate to legislate penalties.”
However, it is apparent that the “existing process” isn’t enough to deter police from violating the rights of individuals. We’ve seen several cases, recently, in which police in Colorado have violated the rights of people who record them.
Last month we reported on the case of a man shopping at a Wal-Mart who saw police arresting a shoplifter. When the man filming, Chris Hoover, started recording this altercation with police, he was arrested, for filming.
Also, in November, a man filmed Denver police as they beat a man and his pregnant wife. Officers took his tablet and deleted the video. However, they were too late as it had already uploaded to his Dropbox account.