A bill that protects the rights of citizens who videotape on-duty police officers passed the Judiciary Committee 29 to 16 Thursday. But not before it was modified to include certain exceptions requested by Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane.
Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, the chief proponent of the legislation, said he agreed to modify the bill to include some exceptions for police.
Under a modified copy of the bill police could still be exposed to a civil action if they took action against a civilian videotaping them unless they thought the videotaping could hinder the prosecution of a crime or endanger public safety at a crime scene, he said.
The legislation stems from incidents in East Haven where a Roman Catholic priest was recording an exchange between an officer and a shopkeeper and Looney’s hometown of New Haven where a man was arrested last year for videotaping police arresting some men as the downtown bars let out.
That man, Luis Luna , was later cleared of the charges and an internal police investigation found the officer, retired Assistant Police Chief Ariel Melendez, not only broke department policy when he ordered Luna to stop videotaping, but also broke policy by ordering one of his officers to take away Luna’s camera and erase the video he had recorded.
The first incident involved Father Jim Manship who was arrested two years ago for videotaping police removing expired license plates that had been hung as decorations in the East Haven store.
At the moment, the problem is that the law is silent on a police officer’s liability under the law should they take action against a member of the public videotaping them, Looney said.
Asked if he conceded too much ground to opponents by carving out exceptions, Looney said the changes help blunt opposition to the bill going forward.
The bill now goes onto the Senate, but could be passed back to a committee before moving forward for a vote.