The Louisiana legislature passed a bill Monday requiring onlookers to stand 25 feet away while observing police, sending the bill to the governor’s desk.
In a 67-32 vote, the state House approved House Bill 85, which states that no person shall knowingly approach an officer within 25 feet if the officer has ordered that person to stop approaching and would punish violators with up to $500 in fines and up to 60 days in jail. The bill passed the state Senate on Monday and now heads to Democrat Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk.
Edwards is a moderate Democrat in a deep red state, so it’s unclear whether he will sign the bill or not.
Republican Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson, the author of the bill, said police need to be sure that members of the public won’t interfere with them on the job, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
“Nothing in this statute says anything at all about prohibiting videotaping or listening or even communicating with the police officer. It just says it gives the police officer a buffer while he does his job,” Johnson said in an interview with BRProud.
The bill is not without criticism, however.
“I think you have a lot of constitutional problems with this,” Democrat Louisiana Sen. Gary Carter told the Louisiana Illuminator. “I think you’re gonna have an enforcement problem. But I just simply think that it’s government overreach.”
The ACLU of Louisiana also criticized the bill, calling it a violation of the First Amendment.
HB85 is vague and overbroad. It violates our First Amendment right to observe and record police, which is vital for uncovering police misconduct.
— ACLU of Louisiana (@ACLUofLouisiana) June 5, 2023
“It would create a chilling effect for ordinary citizens observing police misconduct,” Republican Louisiana Sen. Royce Duplessis said in an interview with the Times-Picayune after the bill passed.
This bill is part of a series of law enforcement-related proposals in Louisiana. House Bill 563, which aimed to provide pay incentives for police, passed unanimously in both the Louisiana House and Senate. (RELATED: City That Defunded Its Police Gives Officers A $25 Million Boost)
Gubernatorial candidates across the aisle in Louisiana have released pro-police and anti-crime ads. Jeff Landry, a Republican candidate for governor, released an ad touting his record as an officer and a sheriff, promising to support police in April. Shawn Wilson, a Democratic candidate for governor, also released a video in April, promising to work with police to take on crime in a comprehensive way involving psychologists and social workers.
Johnson did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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