TUCSON, Ariz. - Tucson Mayor Regina Romero says the city will review and perhaps revise an ordinance that critics fear will keep citizens from taking videos of police.
Videos by citizens have documented deaths of black people in police custody. Now a famous rapper has even become involved in a controversy over a City of Tucson ordinance passed to control how videographers behave at police scenes.
The debate is over whether the law protects police from abuse or prevents photographers from getting abuse on video.
When a Minneapolis Police officer put his knee on George Floyd’s throat and left it there until Floyd died, someone was able to catch it on video.
Easy access to video cameras has made it possible to document other deaths that called police into question.
In April Tucson City Council passed an ordinance that says in part: Police “...may restrict individuals from physically entering crime scenes or areas immediately surrounding where such enforcement activity, investigations, and other police-related activities are taking place.”
That led to complaints that police could stop people from catching misconduct on video...include a tweet from rapper Ice Cube that says, “Tucson just lost me. Never going back there again until that (expletive deleted) changes back. The public has a right to know.”
Now, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero tweeted back saying “This is misinformation. The ordinance explicitly recognizes and codifies that the public has a clear right to free speech and to record police activities that occur in public. Recording the Police is perfectly legal in the City of Tucson.”
The ordinance was a response to videos so obscene we simply can not put them on-air. They are from people who go out of their way to shout insults at police, then post them for on-line audiences that like that sort of thing.
The city says it’s perfectly legal to collect video outside police lines.
Even so the city‘s ordinance has raised concerns that police may use it to prevent videos of authentic police abuse.
Now, Mayor Romero says she will ask City Council to review the ordinance and may revise the language. She says in part,
“The fear that our black brothers and sisters feel during their interactions with law enforcement is very real. The ability to record members of our police department is a critical mechanism for public accountability, and in many instances, the only way injustices and abuses have been exposed across the country.”