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Indiana bill that would allow 25-foot buffer for police, emergency personnel moves forward

House Bill 1186 already received overwhelming support and passed in the House.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Senate is considering a bill that supporters say would better protect police officers as they do their job.  

There’s opposition, though, from others who believe it would thwart the public’s ability to observe police officers and have them be accountable in cases of possible misconduct. 

House Bill 1186 already received overwhelming support and passed in the House

Now, it’s the Senate’s turn to look at the bill. 

If HB 1186 becomes a law, a police officer could ask a bystander to back up 25 feet from where the officer was questioning someone, making an arrest, or conducting any kind of police business.  

If the bystander disobeyed, they could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor and face a $500 fine and/or 60 days behind bars. 

The bill’s author, Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-District 76, said she crafted the proposed bill after a police officer in her district was beaten by somebody who interfered with the officer’s investigation of another person. 

“He feels if he had this 25-foot perimeter to protect him, it wouldn’t have escalated to that point, but they beat him with a cell phone,” McNamara told members of the Senate’s Corrections and Criminal Law Committee Tuesday.  

Those who oppose the bill say it would prevent the public from being able to observe police and record them should they be concerned about officer misconduct. 

“As we’ve seen in the last few years, the fact that law enforcement officers have been videoed doing horrendous things and killing people, we need to be very concerned about this legislation, when we’re talking about law enforcement officers’ safety,” said Sen. Greg Taylor, D-District 33, adding that he thought most police officers are doing a great job, as he thanked them for their service. 

“The majority of our officers are doing really good work and don’t have those issues that have made national news,” said Plainfield Police Chief Kyle Prewitt, who also represents the more than 300 members of the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police, said cell phone technology makes the distance argument invalid. 

“Most modern cell phone cameras are going to capture 25 feet very very well,” Prewitt said. 

Even if the picture is clear from 25 feet away, those against HB 1186 say the audio might not be. 

“You’re not going to get audio very well from 25 feet away from what’s going on,” said Jason Riley with Young Americans for Liberty. 

“I think it’s going to cause more problems than save officers’ lives,” said Taylor, who said he worried about the bill’s language being too open to interpretation and how officers would implement it. 

HB 1186 passed out of committee Tuesday by a vote of 5-2. It’s now headed to a second reading where other senators can propose changes.  

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