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City Manager recommends suspending controversial cop-watching ordinance

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Posted at 1:11 PM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 19:19:56-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — City officials plan to review and possibly suspend a controversial ordinance that has drawn national attention Tuesday.

Enacted in April, ordinance 11746 banned interference with a police activity at a crime scene a potential class two misdemeanor punishable by up to four months in jail and a $750 fine. Because the ordinance limits activity not only within a roped-off crime scene but in the area of one, it was viewed as a restriction on the possibility of bystanders filming crime scenes.

The ordinance does not ban the recording of police activity in general.

Actor and rapper Ice Cube asked the city to revisit the ordinance, helping lift it into the national spotlight.

In the wake of the new debate on the ordinance, Mayor Regina Romero asked the City Council to review the ordinance, saying 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.”

A document attached to Item 11 on the agenda of the Tuesday June 23 Tucson City Council regular meeting says the City Manager's Office recommends suspending the ordinance until Oct. 1 to allow for public input:

Ordinance No. 11746 prohibits entering a crime scene or investigation scene without permission of an officer; and prohibits knowingly obstructing or hindering a police officer or Community Service Officer who is exercising his or her official duties. At the same time, the Ordinance expressly includes the statement that, “[t]he acts of recording police activity or engaging in constitutionally protected speech alone shall not be considered prohibited conduct under this section.” The attached Ordinance would amend Ordinance No. 11746 to suspend and delay its effective date until October 1, 2020 (just over 90 days).