In contrast to Texas legislation introduced by state representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) that would penalize a citizen for filming police activity within a proposed 15-foot area, lawmakers in Colorado have introduced a bill that would penalize police officers for obstructing, seizing or destroying citizen recording.
House Bill 15-1290 is one of several measures that have been introduced this month in Colorado in an effort to increase police oversight. HB 15-1290 “creates a private right of action against a peace officer’s employing law enforcement agency if a person records an incident involving a peace officer and a peace officer destroys the recording or seizes the recording without receiving consent or obtaining a warrant or if the peace officer intentionally interferes with the recording or retaliates against the person making the recording. The person who recorded the peace officer incident is entitled to actual damages, a civil penalty of $15,000, and attorney fees and costs.”
Colorado state representative and HB 15-1290 co-sponsor Joe Salazar (D-Thornton) said that “Primarily, it came up as a result of the number of news reports we’ve been seeing about police officers telling people, ‘Give me your camera,’ or taking the data away, and that is unacceptable conduct.”
Last November, man named Levi Frasier witnessed and filmed an altercation between Denver police and a drug suspect. Video captured by Frasier showed an officer delivering multiple punches to the suspect and tripping the suspect’s pregnant girlfriend. Frasier told Fox31 Denver that police seized the tablet Frasier was using to record the incident, and when the tablet was returned the video was missing. Frasier was able to retrieve the video because it had been also stored on a cloud.
In January, a woman named Bobbie Ann Diaz accused Denver police of prohibiting her daughter Brianna from filming at the scene of the death of Jessica Hernandez, a 17-year-old accused of driving a stolen car who was fatally shot by police while she was inside the vehicle. “At that time, (the officers) put Jessie down and they were on their knees yelling at Brianna that she better not record. She better not,” Diaz said.
A spokesperson for the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police said that it doesn’t support a $15,000 penalty because of an existing process in the courts to determine if a police officer acted appropriately.
Legislation to protect the rights of citizens recording police is among several other measures that seek to provide police reform. Other measures to be considered include:
- Creating a grant program for departments to promote purchase and use of police body cameras.
- Data collection of officer-involved shootings (OIS), including the demographics and details of the incidents.
- Providing law enforcement agencies the ability to analyze a prospective officer’s job history before hiring. According to CBS Denver, officers currently can utilize non-disclosure agreements upon leaving a job to prevent access to records.
- De-escalation training and profiling prevention training for officers.
- Appointing a special prosecutor to review situations when an officer is not charged for using deadly force or excessive force.
The bills regarding reviewing records of prospective police hires and data collection of OIS cases were advanced on Wednesday by The Senate Judiciary Committee. Another proposal to allow other agencies to investigate a shooting instead of leaving the investigation exclusively to the jurisdiction where the incident occurred was also advanced by the committee.