California Senate seeks to clarify right to video police conduct

California Senate seeks to clarify right of bystanders to videotape police use of force

Alarmed that some bystanders have been detained by law enforcement for videotaping police officers during use-of-force incidents, the  state Senate on Monday approved legislation that would clarify the right of people to photograph officers as long as they are not interfering with official duties.

The measure by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) is supported by the California Public Defenders Assn. and the American Civil Liberties Union of California.

“By recognizing the existing constitutional right to photograph and record the police, SB 411 helps to safeguard our collective freedoms and takes an important step towards ensuring that individuals are not punished for the mere exercise of their constitutional rights,” the ACLU said in a statement.

Videotapes by bystanders have helped expose police use-of-force in cases including the LAPD beating of Rodney King 24 years ago and last year’s death of Eric Garner after a scuffle with New York police officers.

“Recent events throughout the country and here in California have raised questions about when an individual can -- and can’t -- record,” Lara said.

The Senate vote was 31-3 to send the bill to the Assembly for consideration.

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