Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer, who was convicted of the murder of George Floyd after deliberately pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck, would never have been brought to justice were it not for the fact that a distraught bystander had the presence of mind to make a video of the incident on her mobile phone.
Now Republicans in the Ohio legislature are seeking to prevent that state’s citizens from using their phones to document police activities in a transparent attempt to have law enforcement escape accountability for any potential misdeeds that they may commit during the course of their duties.
Members of Ohio’s House Criminal Justice Committee voted this week to advance House Bill 22, a measure that 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,” according to a report from ABC News affiliate, WEWS News 5 Cleveland.
The advocates of the new bill— which now moves forward for a vote by the full Ohio House of Representatives — claim that it would be beneficial for both the police and the public at large when law enforcement is trying to keep crime scenes under control, make arrests, or “maintain order.”
The bill is naturally supported by the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney’s Association, the Buckeye Sheriff’s Association, the Ohio Highway Patrol, and the Fraternal Order of Police in the state.
Critics of the bill, on the other hand, are extremely concerned that the proposed bill will be used to prevent witnesses of incidents of excessive force by police from using their mobile phones to document the misbehavior by law enforcement officers, such an important factor these days to overcome the impunity of law enforcement in their violent encounters with the public.
Ohio State Representative Thomas West (D-Canton) attacked the proposed legislation with a fiery denunciation of HB 22.
“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,” West said in a statement.
“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,” he continued.
“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.”
HB 22 still needs to gain approval by Ohio’s full House and Senate and be signed by the state’s Republican Governor Mike DeWine before any of its pernicious provisions become law.
There is still time for Ohio citizens to contact their local representatives and urge them to reject this dangerously restrictive legislation that would infringe upon their First Amendment rights of free expression and the principles of police accountability.
If you live in Ohio, please call your state representatives today!
Original reporting by Ron Regan at News5Cleveland.com.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.