COLUMBUS, Ohio — A proposed state law that could make it a crime to shoot cell phone video of police got the green light by lawmakers to move forward following a statehouse committee hearing Thursday in Columbus.
Members of the House Criminal Justice Committee voted to approve the measure despite more than 100 civil rights, first amendment groups and individuals testifying against the measure since it was first introduced.
House Bill 22 would expand Ohio obstruction of justice laws by including failure to follow a lawful order from police or diverting a law enforcement officer's attention.
The bills sponsors say it would protect both police and the public from harm when police are attempting to clear crime scenes, make arrests or maintain order and is supported by the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney's Association, Buckeye Sheriff's Association, Ohio Highway Patrol and the Fraternal Order of Police.
Opponents argued the proposed law is so broad it could subject bystanders from taking cell phone video of police activity during protests or demonstrations.
Civil rights groups point to the death of George Floyd where citizen video was a crucial factor in the prosecution.
But Derek Chauvin's defense attorney argued those surrounding police, taking cell phone video, were a distraction that helped cause Floyd's death.
It was the fifth hearing for the controversial measure that still would require passage by both the House and Senate as well as signed by the Governor before becoming law.
Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) President State Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) issued the following statement Thursday:
“Instead of seeking to heal the rift between our communities and our law enforcement, HB 22 further sows the seeds of fear by attempting to criminalize the right to protest.
This bill, not to mention similar legislation pending before this body, takes Ohio in the opposite direction of progress. HB 22 will not promote the safety and security of our officers and of individuals exercising their First Amendment rights. It will only create more tension and potential for conflict.”
Just seven proponents testified in favor of HB 22, while more than 100 opponents spoke up against it. This is a pattern we have seen far too many times from the General Assembly. We must start listening to what Ohioans are asking us to do instead of forcing unpopular and dangerous bills through the legislative process over their objections.”