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FL Bill to Criminalize Filming Cops

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

State lawmakers are pushing witness intimidation legislation (Senate Bill 1126 and House Bill 1539) that purports to protect police officers. But these bills really are a not-so-veiled attack on communities of color that will make law enforcement less accountable. They build on the harmful legacy of the 2021 anti-protest bill, HB 1, which was a direct attack on the free-speech rights of those seeking racial justice.

If passed, this legislation would allow police officers greater authority to harass and criminalize people for documenting their use of excessive force. It would make it illegal to approach within 20 feet of a police officer (and, in the case of the Senate bill, other first responders) effectively criminalizing, with fines and jail time, the filming of police at close proximity.

There is no more compelling example for why this misguided bill should be rejected out of hand than Darnella Frazier. Frazier filmed the final moments of George Floyd’s life as he was being murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. Her courage in documenting Floyd’s murder was a key factor in getting justice for Floyd and his family, but under this ridiculous legislation, she would face criminal charges.

These bills are unnecessary. It already is illegal to obstruct police officers carrying out their duty. This proposal would make already tense situations worse and allow police to abuse their authority by invoking an invisible barrier between themselves and citizens, even when those within its radius are passive and non-threatening.

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