If you happen to witness police officers making an arrest or detaining a suspect, it’s not uncommon to see people recording the incident on their cell phones. Sometimes it’s the people being detained themselves doing the recording.
On Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 411, ensuring Californians’ legal right to film police in their professional capacity.
Hundreds of videos posted to YouTube show these police interactions, some have even gone viral.
“It’s just become the world we live in. People are interested in law enforcement contact with other individuals,” said Sacramento County Sgt. Jason Ramos.
Ramos says oftentimes people recording the scene become part of it, making officers jobs even more dangerous.
“There are definitely times where there’s a potential to be preoccupied with the people who are filming us,” Ramos said.
There are examples, however, where cell phone video proves vital in investigating police wrong doing. The infamous Eric Garner choking video made national headlines.
In early August, a Rohnert Park officer pointed his gun at a man, who recorded the entire episode with his cell phone. That officer now faces a lawsuit.
“I thought it was important to clarify in statute that an average citizen can record police officers without the fear of being intimidated or being arrested,” said State Senator Ricardo Lara, author of Senate Bill 411.
Recording police was never illegal, but Lara felt it was important to codify it into law. He says cell phone evidence has the potential to keep people safe.
“Mobile phones, which everybody has, are now being used to deter violence,” said Lara.
But Lara made clear the bill does not legalize interfering with police.
Ramos says there is a fine line between being a diligent citizen with a camera, and an interference.
The ACLU shared a statement with FOX40 in support of the bill:
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