Bill would restrict distribution of video in police officer deaths

Bill would restrict distribution of video in police officer deaths

LITTLE ROCK, AR (KAIT) - A new bill that's been sent to the state's House Judiciary Committee has created quite a stir among government officials.

According to Talk Business & Politics, House Bill 1236 would restrict the public's access to audio, videos, and recordings of police officers being killed in the line of duty and would also make it a Class D felony to disseminate the types of information to the public.

State Representative Jimmy Gazaway of Paragould first got the idea following the death of Trumann police officer Jonathan Schmidt in 2011.

Following the trial, a video of the shooting was released to the public and had been replayed on YouTube over 340,000 times.

Gazaway said he's heard of family members being tagged in social media posts,  and he wants to put a stop to it with this bill.

"I see no reason why this should be available," Gazaway said. "I can't imagine being a family member and having to re-live the murder of your loved one on a video."

However, there has been opposition to the bill.

Tom Larimer, who is Chairman of the state's FOI Coalition and the Executive Director of the Arkansas Press Association, said while the bill only targets one specific circumstance, it would create an area where one class of citizens can access the bill and one class that can not.

"The state's FOI laws are among the best in the country," Larimer said. "One of the reasons is because it hasn't been amended or watered down with provisions through the years, it's about transparency in government."

Larimer added that it will be tough to fight the bill, due to the nature of the bill and many who would be sympathetic towards it. He adds that a bill like this could eventually hinder the public's ability to keep government officials honest.

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