Opinion: HB 1290 affirms core right of Coloradans to record police

From The Complete Colorado:  By Noah Rauscher

After a number of controversial recent incidents involving police use of force, the issue of filming the police is getting lawmakers’ attention in Colorado.

Numerous bills concerning police procedure and conduct have been proposed at the Colorado Statehouse, the most important of which aims to further protect the First Amendment rights of citizens to lawfully film the police.

The bipartisan House Bill 1290 would allow for $15,000 in civil damages to be imposed upon a police agency when an officer interferes with the lawful filming of a police encounter. It also would prevent police from confiscating video from a citizen without a court-issued warrant and impose a penalty if an officer retaliates against a person filming.

The right to take photographs or video in a public place is the First Amendment right of every citizen. The right to film is not a right held only by the press or media, nor does it go away when the subject being filmed is a police officer or public official. Some argue that a law such as HB 1290 is unnecessary because of existing regulations. As Wheat Ridge Police Chief Dan Brennan said, “there’s already an existing process” for determining if an officer acted appropriately. However, a number of recent incidents in Denver show that current laws and regulations are inconsistently applied and often fail to dissuade officers from interfering with citizens who are legally recording them.

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