In our time covering breaking news events the Old Guard here at NEWS24/680 have covered thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of crime scenes and breaking news scenarios – with participants often unfriendly and hostile to our very presence.
In many cases, unfortunately, this hostility has led to conflict between those sworn to uphold the law, those pledged to getting the news as it happens, and those perhaps on the other side of the law who object to being caught in the act. Colleagues have been beaten, threatened, robbed – or handcuffed and detained.
For the record, NEWS24-680 has instructed its people to stay out of identified crime scenes, not to ask questions during active investigations and to film scenes with respect for all involved. Information of a tactical nature which could – conceivably – abet lawbreakers during breaking news situations will not be shown until that possibility has passed.
Still, despite the proliferation of body cameras and resultant attention to the issue, our very presence often continues to ruffle feathers. We get that, but thought it important to note the passage of an important piece of legislation signed today by Gov. Brown:
SACRAMENTO, CA —Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 411 by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) to clarify that civilians’ right to record public safety officers in California is permissible under the law. Known as the “Right to Record Act,” SB411 has received bipartisan support as it advanced through the legislature and onto the Governor’s desk.
“Today, California makes it unequivocal – you have the right to record,” said Senator Lara. “With the stroke of a pen, Governor Brown reinforces our First Amendment right and ensures transparency, accountability and justice for all Californians. At a time when cell phone and video footage is helping steer important national civil rights conversations, passage of the Right to Record Act sets an example for the rest of the nation to follow.”
SB 411 clarifies individuals’ First Amendment right to record police officers by stating that a civilian recording while an officer is in a public place, or the person recording is in a place he or she has the right to be, is not violating the law. Additionally, it makes clear that recording does not constitute reasonable suspicion to detain a person or probable cause to arrest. This bill also protects police by ensuring that these provisions do not allow a civilian to obstruct an officer.
Advocates react to the Governor’s signature:
“This law makes it crystal clear that a person who photographs or video records a public officer or police officer, in a public place, and does not physically interfere with that officer, is not committing a crime and is not subject to detention or arrest. It is the embodiment of protections guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. We applaud Governor Brown’s signature on this measure at this crucial time in our nation’s history.” – Susan Israel, California Public Defenders Association Legislative Committee Member
“CACJ is proud to co-sponsor this timely legislation. Following various high profile incidents across the country, it is essential for the community to hold the police accountable without fear of being intimidated or arrested.” – Dennis Garcia, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice
“SB 411 reaffirms the right of citizens to record the official actions of law enforcement in a reasonable, non-interfering manner. This protects the public from misconduct and excess by law enforcement, and also protects good police officers who could otherwise have their careers and reputations damaged by untrue allegations of misconduct. – Larry Doyle, Conference of California Bar Associations
In California and beyond, members of the public have been arrested while recording or photographing police activity in public places. News accounts and videos have surfaced showing that some civilians have been arrested for recording officers in the cities of Los Angeles, Torrance, and San Diego, as well as the County of Orange. This conflict extends past police officers and civilians to professional photographers and media personnel. In Berkeley, CA a journalist was arrested after recording law enforcement officers in a public place…
To be clear, NEWS24/680 personnel have been instructed to render aid first when, as sometimes happens, our people arrive before first responders, and we’re happy to identify ourselves when asked. But if notified by our readers of a breaking news event in our area of coverage – we’re coming. That’s part of what we do.
Editor’s Note: Our thanks to our colleagues at EastCountyToday for pointing out the need to spread the news about this important legislation.