Judiciary Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-237

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING THE RECORDING OF POLICE ACTIVITY BY THE PUBLIC.

Vote Date:

4/12/2013

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

2/13/2013

File No.:

645

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Judiciary Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

There have been numerous incidents throughout the nation in which individuals have been harassed or apprehended for recording public action by law enforcement officials. Present laws make the recording of such actions illegal and they do not take into consideration modern technology. Recently, two Federal appellate courts have made decisions that affirm the legality of recording public actions by police officers. This bill seeks to make Connecticut's laws regarding the recording of police activity by the public more up to date and reflective of recent court decisions.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

None Submitted

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

State Senator Martin M. Looney: Supports this bill. Senator Looney believes that the bill reflects current Federal appellate court decisions (and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to allow these decisions by choosing not to accept either case) and resolutions being made by Congress. The police officers should have expectations of privacy as their duties are executed publicly. For these reasons the public should be allowed to record police activity so long as the recording does not interfere with the law enforcement officer's ability to perform their duties. He goes further to say that allowing the recording of police activity by the public would deter poor behavior by police officers.

American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU-CT), Sandra Staub: Supports this bill. Ms. Staub thinks that the bill would officially state a citizen's right to record public police activity and provide a way for such individuals to bring a cause of action against police officers who violate that right. She lists several ways in which this right serves public policy functions such supporting the first amendment, the importance of such recordings as evidence at a trial, and the instances of police brutality that such recordings may deter. Ms. Staub believes that this legislation protects citizen's first amendment rights as well as the duties of law enforcement officials.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

State of Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Commissioner Rueben F. Bradford: Opposes this bill as currently drafted, which would incur a civil liability on police officers. This would have an adverse effect on law enforcement functions. He does not believe that the “reasonable grounds” exceptions outlined in the bill are strong enough, and recommends language changes that would address the department's concerns. These changes are summarized as follows:

1. “Peace Officer” is defined under section 53a-3;

2. Five circumstances under which a peace officer would be allowed to interfere in the recording of police activity by the public;

3. Outlining a policy and process for training requirements regarding First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (please see testimony for actual language)

Commissioner Bradford states that the department would support the bill with these changes.

Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, Chiefs Anthony Salvatore & Matthew Reed: Oppose this bill. The chiefs argue that most peace officers understand that it is the right of the public to record their actions and that this bill is based solely on the imprudent actions of a few police officers. They argue that there are already several remedies for individuals offended by a police officer's actions and that this bill is therefore unnecessary.

Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM): Opposes this bill. The CCM argues that this bill would increase municipal liability exposure and encourage litigation. The conference believes that would allow individuals to get back at municipalities and police officers for perceived wrongdoings and complicate the responsibilities of police officers.

Reported by: Kaitlin Faticoni

Date: 5/3/2012