SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Legislature is looking to make sure it's legal for citizens to film the police, as long as they don't interfere.
The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill Monday that says merely videotaping a police, parole or probation officer does not constitute the crime of interfering with the official's duties.
The committee's 7-2 vote sends the measure to the full House.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which supports the bill, says Oregon law isn't clear on the legality of videotaping police officers. The ACLU says people who document arrests and the use of force shouldn't be subject to arrest and prosecution for eavesdropping or interfering with law enforcement.
Kimberly McCullough, an ACLU lobbyist, pointed to the video of a white South Carolina police officer shooting Walter Scott, a black man running from the officer.
"If something like that is criminal in Oregon, then people are going to be afraid to take those kinds of videos, and we don't want that sort of speech to get chilled," McCullough said.
Rep. Jeff Barker, a Democrat from Aloha who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said the bill's language will be fine-tuned in the Senate to ensure, for example, that people can't legally use a powerful microphone to surreptitiously record officers discussing tactical plans.
Law enforcement officials don't object to the bill but want to ensure officers' privacy is protected when they're not involved in an encounter with the public, said Kevin Campbell, a lobbyist for the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police. It shouldn't be legal to secretly record two officers eating lunch and talking about their families, he said.
"I think most law enforcement officers expect to be taped when they're involved in an encounter," Campbell said. "We want to make sure there's safety there."
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