On April 21, 2020, the Mayor and Council approved and adopted Ordinance No. 11746.
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The Ordinance prohibits a person from entering a crime scene or investigation scene without permission of an officer; and prohibits a person from knowingly obstructing or hindering a police officer or Community Service Officer who is exercising his or her official duties.
The Ordinance also expressly codifies a person’s right to record police activities that take place in public. It doesn’t just recognize that right, it puts that right into our City Code.
The Ordinance expressly states that:
the public has a clear right to free speech and to record police activities that take place in public; and
the acts of recording police activity or engaging in constitutionally protected speech alone shall not be considered prohibited conduct under the ordinance.
The Mayor and Council discussed this Ordinance during the 4/21 Mayor and Council meeting. The link to that discussion is here: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/files/mcc-av/2020-04-21-MC-RS.mp4
The discussion of this item comes up at the 20:01 minute mark.
The ordinance is designed to address a particular practice of persons who interfere with police activities, often by confronting police officers carrying out their duties, interfering with their investigations, filming themselves, and then posting it online to troll for hits and views.
Tucson Police Chief Christopher Magnus explains, during the discussion, that this activity has been ongoing and real, and has happened throughout the city, endangering the safety of the public and officers.
You can read more about it in the story published in the Arizona Daily Star, shortly after the adoption of the Ordinance, here:
AZ Daily Star Article 4/27/2020
You can read a pdf of the ordinance, as adopted by Mayor and Council, here: Ordinance 11746
How does this work?
- The ordinance prohibits an individual or group of persons from interfering with an officer engaged in lawful police activity (investigation, crime scene, etc.). The interference could involve crossing into an area that makes the situation unsafe for the officer, those involved in the contact, or other members of the public. It could also involve specifically hindering or obstructing the investigation (such as contaminating a crime scene, making it impossible for an officer to hear or speak to a suspect/victim/witness, etc.)
- Officers and CSOs are allowed to identify a specific line or distance which individuals cannot cross at a scene based on the specific conduct of those individuals. The distance involved that persons have to stay back depends on their level of interference or obstructive behavior, so it is not the same for every situation. In most circumstances where no one is hindering or obstructing a police activity, no "do not cross line" or boundary is ever set.
- None of this prohibits persons from filming an officer--something we are already used to and routinely allow.
How can you ensure this won't be abused?
- Specific language is included in the ordinance that calls out the First Amendment rights of those who wish to film the police.
- TPD officers have been specifically trained in the use of this ordinance.
How is a boundary established by the police?
- Officers and CSOs are allowed to identify a specific line or distance which individuals cannot cross at a scene based on the specific conduct of those individuals.
- The distance involved that persons have to stay back depends on their level of interference or obstructive behavior, so it is not the same for every situation.
- In most circumstances where no one is hindering or obstructing a police activity, no "do not cross line" or boundary is ever set.
- Crime scene tape can and will be used in certain circumstances where it actually can be put up and where it is practical to do so.
- If tape is not used, an officer must give clear instructions to the person(s) being warned about what the boundaries are.
- Boundaries could be changed based on the conduct of the individuals involved, but this is unlikely once they are set.
Has this been enforced?
- No arrests have been made to date.
- Any individuals determined to be involved in this activity to date have heeded the warnings that they have been given.
What is the intent of this ordinance?
The intent is to allow police to conduct their lawful duties without interference or obstruction that makes it difficult, dangerous, or impossible. City officials believe that there is value in allowing members of the public to record the police and these ordinances do not disallow that. In fact, the ordinance expressly recognizes that value and right. Video recording of the police happens all the time in a wide range of circumstances and officers are used to it. In fact, officers' actions are also recorded during all interactions with the public on their own body cameras--which become a public record.