SACRAMENTO (CN) - California lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a bill that would amend laws regarding filming police officers in public, to protect recording citizens from reprisals by law enforcement.
The Senate's public safety committee unanimously passed State Bill 411 Tuesday, which was introduced in February by California State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens. SB 411 aims to clarify existing laws that allow individuals to film police officers and protect the First Amendment rights of Californians, Lara testified.
"The lack of clarity has increased conflict between police officers and members of the public, and SB 411 seeks to help alleviate this growing problem," Lara said. "Specifically, the bill clarifies the existing law that a person recording an officer in and of itself is not a punishable offense."
The bill was introduced in February in response to various incidents of citizens being arrested for filming police officers in public. Lara says the bill does not allow citizens to interfere with police and will actually provide support for police officers who are falsely accused.
"This bill will prove useful for law enforcement officers - there have been many instances where recordings have helped clear police officers of alleged wrongdoing," Lara said.
No group testified in opposition of SB 411. The bill will move forward in the legislative process, with a second reading scheduled for the end of the month.
The California Newspaper Publishers Association voiced support of Lara's legislation.
"This is a balanced bill and it recognizes the ability of law enforcement to continue to arrest someone if they actually engage in conduct that restricts or causes a problem with an officer's ability to carry out their duty," said Jim Ewert, CPNA's legislative advocate.
The committee also heard testimony on two bills to provide additional training and resources to law enforcement when interacting with people who have mental health issues.
Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, introduced SB 11, which would require law enforcement officers to undergo 20 hours of instructor-led training to improve their ability to recognize mental illnesses and intellectual disabilities.
SB 11 and SB 29 drew full support of the committee, as well as various law enforcement organizations around the state. Currently, law enforcement officials only get six hours of mental health training and there is no mandate for future training or learning.
"This is one of those quintessential good-sense bills," said John Lovell, speaking on behalf of the Los Angeles Police Protective League. "We are faced with an increasing number of interactions with people who are mentally ill; this is a fundamental officer safety bill."
Supporters of the bills mentioned the recent death of San Jose Police officer Michael Johnson, who was shot by a man with a mental illness. The lack of training has had deadly results across the state, Beall told the committee.
"An individual survey conducted estimated that nearly half of all police shootings involve people with a mental illness," he testified.
The California State Sheriffs' Association was the only law enforcement group to oppose the bills, saying the current training mandates are more than enough and that California produces some of the best law enforcement officers in the country.
"Unfortunately this is a premature unfunded mandate that provides no guarantee of providing the appropriate training to the rights officers," said Corey Salzillo, legislative director for the California State Sheriffs' Association.
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