Tucson City Council seeks public input on police-filming ordinance

Tucson City Council seeks public imput on police-filming ordinance

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Tucson City leaders will revisit a new ordinance following backlash online, including from a celebrity.

Ordinance 11746 was a result of this video, which shows Tucson Police officers being approached and videotaped by a man hurling insults at them (Warning Profane Language).

It was not the first incident, but Mayor and Council hoped it would be the last.

“The intent of the ordinance was to protect - first and foremost - the First Amendment, but also to protect victims of crime,” said Tucson Mayor Regina Romero during Tuesday’s study session. “This ordinance has come into sharp focus.”

That’s because there’s been a lot of confusion after a tweet claiming the Tucson City Council “passed an ordinance making it illegal for citizens to film the Tucson police” went viral.

Actor and rapper, Ice Cube, even chimed in, saying “Please make sure its pro-people and not pro-Law Enforcement. Y’all should have an emergency meeting to make sure you’re satisfying the great citizens of Tucson and surrounding areas. I love it there I’d hate to miss it.”

The ordinance, passed in late April, puts into writing people’s right to record the police. However, they may not jeopardize the safety of law enforcement officers, suspects, victims, witnesses, themselves, or others, nor may they interfere with an investigation while doing so.

“Officers are allowed to create an area that has to be as minimally-restrictive as possible - that’s already written into the ordinance - that allows them to safely do their legal duties,” said Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus. “[People] can still film, absolutely! They just have to be a reasonable distance back and we have to be clear on what that distance is. [Tucson Police officers] are already used to being recorded all the time because everyone has a cellphone and everyone is always recording the police, but we are already recording ourselves. We are all wearing body cameras and all that body camera footage is already available.”

KOLD News 13 sent the ordinance to First Amendment Lawyer, Daniel Barr. He told us it is not aimed at First Amendment protected activity, but instead neutrally prohibits all people from being in a restricted area, regardless of what they are doing.

During Tuesday’s study session, online viewers called the ordinance “too vague”. One person said, “[a] reasonable [distance] is not a recognized workable legal standard.”

“Public outcry against the status quo of policing and the way this ordinance was written has stirred a lot of community mistrust,” said Lane Santa Cruz, a Tucson City Council Member.

Part of the issue stems from how council passed the ordinance.

“The ordinance was passed with little to no opportunity for public comment,” said Marcela Taracena, a spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona. “It is imperative that Tucsonans be given a clear opportunity to comment on such an important matter impacting their First Amendment rights, especially as people across the country, including Tucson, are exercising their right to protest to demand police accountability and an end to police violence.”

“I do agree that there was not enough time for the public to give us input,” Romero said.

So, Tuesday night, Mayor and Council unanimously passed a motion to bring back the ordinance for further review on Tuesday, June 23rd. In the meantime, council is asking for community feedback.

Tucsonans who wish to voice their opinions can email comments@tucsonaz.gov.

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