Bill would restrict recording of peace officers

A measure that would expand the offense of obstructing a peace officer to include certain audio or visual recording was considered Feb. 29 by the Judiciary Committee.

Sen. John Lowe
Sen. John Lowe

Under LB1185, introduced by Kearney Sen. John Lowe, an individual who records audio or video of a peace officer engaged in their duties would be required to remain at least 10 feet away from the officer while recording, unless they are the person with whom the officer is actively engaging.

Obstructing a peace officer is a Class I misdemeanor.

Lowe said the bill would strike a balance between allowing citizens to record officers and providing officers “breathing room” when performing their official duties.

“I believe that LB1185 creates a safer environment for our police officers [and] for the individual who has been stopped by the officer [while] ensuring that third party individuals maintain the right to record and provide citizen oversight of police officers,” he said.

Terry Wagner testified in support of the measure on behalf of the Nebraska Sheriffs Association, Police Officers Association of Nebraska and Police Chiefs Association of Nebraska.

Officers are accustomed to — and welcome — being recorded with body and car cameras, he said, which often clear officers of wrongdoing. When a third party is recording within a few feet of an interaction, however, it can cause officers to become distracted, he said, which can endanger citizens and potentially compromise a crime scene.

“LB1185 simply provides that safety zone so officers can focus their attention on the task at hand and not have to worry about any outside interference,” Wagner said.

Representing ACLU Nebraska and the Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorneys Association, Spike Eickholt testified against the measure. A citizen already can be charged with obstruction if they hinder an officer from performing their duties, he said. Additionally, Eickholt said, courts consistently have ruled that citizens have the right to record interactions with the police.

“The courts are clear, and have been uniform across the country, that people have a right to observe peace officers while they’re on duty and they have a right to record,” he said.

Korby Gilbertson also testified against the bill on behalf of Media Nebraska, Inc. She questioned how individuals could abide by the 10-foot requirement without exiting a vehicle — which law enforcement advises people not to do during a traffic stop — if they are pulled over by the police.

The committee took no immediate action on LB1185.

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