Midstate Republican Legislator Mike Johnson introduced House Bill 85 with the aim of providing a buffer between police and bystanders.
The bill, currently making its way through the state house, would make it illegal to approach an officer while they are on the job.
Johnson told WWL-TV the idea is make everyone safe.
“It’s to protect the policeman. To protect the person the policeman is investigating or talking with. And to protect anyone who would come up on an investigation site.”
Violators could be charged with misdemeanor.
“When you bring in a third person who is not involved in the investigation who gets right close to the officer or the investigation, it creates a danger for the policeman,” Johnson explains. “Depending on his level of anxiety, it creates a danger for everyone concerned.”
The Police Association of New Orleans and the local Fraternal Order of Police are supporting the bill.
FOP General Council Donovan Livaccari responded in writing: “We want interactions with the police to be as safe as possible, we want to be able to honor people's first amendment rights to record interactions with the police, and we want people to be able to see the public service that is being provided on their behalf, but we do not need people getting themselves hurt or inadvertently getting the police hurt or the other participants hurt in the course of a police action.”
Opponents of the bill say it infringes on the right of citizens to observe and/or record police activity or misconduct.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana’s Stephanie Willis observes: “We know that there are so many instances in the past or the present where this is happening, and we don’t have any evidence of it. The safety issue I get it, I understand, and we always want to keep our law enforcement safe, but we also want to keep our community safe as well.”