DENVER (AP) – Law enforcement could face civil penalties if an officer destroys or seizes someone’s recordings of a public incident with a bill that advanced in the Colorado House on Tuesday.
The bill is the latest in a package moving through the Legislature that seeks to increase oversight on law enforcement and curb their powers in the wake of allegations of misconduct nationally and in the state.
The proposal would require law enforcement to have someone’s consent or a warrant to seize a recording. Failing to follow those protocols would open a law enforcement agency to litigation for civil damages of up to $15,000 plus attorney fees.
Many lawmakers agree that citizens should have a right to record law enforcement actions in public, as long as they’re not interfering with officers’ ability to do their jobs or obtain evidence. The measure includes an exception for lawmakers to seize a recording under urgent circumstances as evidence.
The House advanced the bill on a voice vote Tuesday, an indication that it’s likely to pass on a final vote later to send to the Senate.
The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police said it supports the right of people to record law enforcement activity. But the group remains concerned about the civil penalties the bill calls for, saying it exposes law enforcement to stricter liability standards than other government officials.
“The CACP does not believe that the people who put their lives at risk every day should have different standards of liability than anyone else in government,” group lobbyist, AnneMarie Jensen, said in a statement.
Rep. Joe Salazar, a Thornton Democrat sponsoring the bill, has been making changes to the proposal to try to ease some law enforcement concerns, but he said he’s unsure whether they’ll be satisfied.
“That’s the funny thing about law enforcement. If you bring a bill that curbs some of their behavior, they don’t like it. I don’t know if they’re going to go neutral on this bill or not,” he said.
Rep. Polly Lawrence, R-Littleton, said she would like to see the bill include training for officers so they’re aware of the new law if it passes. She also said civil penalties are too severe.
“I don’t think we should be assessing penalties to departments that employ these officers,” she said. “If we have an officer who inappropriately confiscates a camera or interferes with someone recording, then that should be a disciplinary action, not a punitive action.”
LINK: House Bill 1290
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
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