Friday, April 08, 2011

CT: Bill seeks to protect public’s right to photograph police officers

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would protect the right of the public to photograph or videotape the public activities of police officers.

In an age when even the least expensive cell phones usually come equipped with cameras, supporters say the measure will provide greater transparency while protecting members of the public who record police actions from harassment and arrest.

"There have been numerous which citizens have been harassed, threatened and arrested for recording what would seem to be public action by police officers,'' state Sen. Martin Looney said at a legislative hearing this morning.

"It's difficult to understand how a police officer has an expectation of privacy in the performance of his or her public duties," Looney added.

The law would only apply in cases where a citizen is filming in a public place and not interfering with the officer's work. But West Hartford police Chief James Strillacci said if "somebody...gets in our face and follows us around while were trying to arrest a suspect or give first aide to somebody," it could constitute interfering.

State Sen. John Kissel said lawmakers were struggling to determine where to draw a line. "We want to continue to have an open and free society where people can monitor what the police are doing,'' he said. "If they're five-feet away...a police officer may feel harassed by that...but the individual who is doing the filming really isn't doing anything,'' he said.

The bill is under consideration by the legislature's Judiciary Committee; a vote is not expected today.

Original report here

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