City leaders explain ordinance after online backlash

City leaders explain ordinance after online backlash
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero speaks at a press conference on May 30, 2020 in Tucson, Ariz. Romero, police CChris Magnus other community leaders, condemned violence during protests. (Source: KOLD News 13)

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A Tucson ordinance is at the center of a social media frenzy. The ordinance makes it illegal to film police scenes under certain circumstances.

Amid heightened police scrutiny, the ordinance recently came under fire.

In a tweet late last week, “The Artsy Marxist” claimed the Tucson City Council passed an ordinance making it illegal for citizens to film the Tucson police, saying “I’m horrified. This needs national attention.”

National attention is exactly what the ordinance received.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero was quick to chime in, saying “This is misinformation.” She included a link to the ordinance in her Twitter thread, to which Ice Cube responded, “Please make sure it’s pro-people and not pro-Law Enforcement.” The American actor/rapper went on to say, “I love it there and I’d hate to miss it.”

“Everyone is so strung tightly right now, and I totally get that, I totally understand that,” Tucson City Council Member Steve Kozachik said.

Kozachik voted in favor of Ordinance No. 11746, which passed unanimously on April 21.

“This has zero to do with the current protest, it was put in place long before any of this was envisioned,” Kozachik said. “This was put into place because there is a small group of people who were interfering with legitimate TPD work. Doing so, they were putting not only their lives and safety, but those of the officers and the general public, at risk.”

According to the mayor and council members, the ordinance was a result of incidents like this, where officers were approached on the job and verbally harassed (Warning Graphic Language).

The ordinance states “Police officers or Community Service Officers conducting enforcement activity, investigations, and other police-related activities may restrict individuals from physically entering crime scenes or areas immediately surrounding where such enforcement activity, investigations, and other police-related activities are taking place.”

Kozachik says, under the ordinance, when police put up crime tape or physical barriers during an investigation it is illegal for someone to enter the crime scene to record officers.

“The police have a legitimate right to conduct an investigation,” he said. “In doing that, they have a legitimate right to set up a crime scene. Now, we are not stupid. Police are not going to set up a crime scene that’s three blocks wide. If the police start to abuse it that way, then it’s going to get rejected.”

Mayor Romero and the City Attorney, Mike Rankin, made clear that videotaping police is a protected right, as long people remain outside of marked-off crime scenes.

“Videotaping is explicitly called out within the ordinance, twice, as a permissible activity,” Kozachik said.

On Monday night, June 8, Romero released the following statement:

"I have requested Mayor & Council to discuss Ordinance 11746 during tomorrow’s study session after hearing feedback from members of the community and seeing misinformation. In addition, I am going to recommend to Mayor & Council that we receive more community feedback, consider additional language, and bring the ordinance back for further review.

To date, there have been zero citations or arrests made under this ordinance since it was adopted in April. I want to re-iterate that the ordinance does NOT prohibit the public from recording the police, nor does it prohibit the recording of crime scenes.

The fear that our black brothers and sisters feel during their interactions with law enforcement is very real. The ability to record members of our police department is a critical mechanism for public accountability, and in many instances, the only way injustices and abuses have been exposed across the country.

Mayor & Council adopted this ordinance in response to a small subset of individuals who appear at crime scenes with the sole intention of obstructing police activities and investigations. The ordinance was put together based on similar laws in other cities throughout the country.

Our government works best when we are co-governing as one Tucson community, which is why it is important that we continue an open dialogue on this and other important issues."

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