Florida Legislation Targeting Cop Watchers Seeks to Criminalize Harassing Police

FLORIDA- 7/22/2021- Florida has prioritized a bill that would punish individuals for “harassing police”. The bill would punish an individual for being within 30 feet of an officer in the performance of their duties.

Alex Rizo filed Florida House Bill 11 for the 2022 legislative session beginning in January.

The bill reads:

“(2)(a) It is unlawful for any person, after receiving a warning from a law enforcement officer not to approach, to violate such warning and approach or remain within 30 feet of a law enforcement officer who is engaged in the lawful performance of any legal duty with the intent to:

1. Interrupt, disrupt, hinder, impede, or interfere with the law enforcement officer’s ability to perform such duty;

2. Provoke a physical response from the law enforcement officer; or

3. Directly or indirectly harass the law enforcement officer.”

-Florida Hose Bill 11 2022

While on its face a bill banning the harassment of police may appear reasonable. The Supreme Court has ruled that recording police, is a constitutionally protected activity.

Cop watching is a type of first amendment auditing that involves filming police during the course of their duties, in part to ensure that they are performing their duties appropriately.

It’s true that the language reads that the individuals intent must be to interrupt the officer. However intent can not be easily proven. And if passed, this bill could be used by police to unreasonably hinder an individual’s constitutionally protected rights.

While some cop watchers do like to get rises from police. It is rare that they engage an officer first. The purpose of cop watching is not to interact with the police at all. But to simply observe them, and record them during the performance of their duties.

Similar legislation is being pushed for in places like Mesa, Arizona.