Miami Beach suspends law used against people filming police

Miami Beach
Posted at 3:17 PM, Aug 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-21 15:17:35-04

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Miami Beach police officers are no longer enforcing a new law that critics believe has emboldened officers to arrest bystanders using their phones to film police on duty.

The department announced Thursday that it had suspended the law last month following a series a controversial arrests, the Miami Herald reported.

The local ordinance, which the city commission passed unanimously on June 23, makes it a crime to stand within 20 feet (about six meters) of officers with the "intent to impede, provoke or harass" them.

Chief Richard Clements ordered the local law's enforcement to be suspended on July 26, police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez said. The temporary stoppage will allow for officers to receive additional training, Rodriguez said.

Arrest data provided by the police shows that 13 people have been arrested under the ordinance. At least eight of those arrests were of people who had been video recording officers. All 13 were young Black men or women.

In the early morning hours of the day the ordinance was suspended, two men were arrested as they video recorded police officers at the Royal Palm Hotel in South Beach. One man was filming police as they repeatedly beat a handcuffed man accused of fleeing police after striking an officer with a scooter, officials said. The second man was arrested after filming officers as they waited outside the lobby to transport the first man to jail.

Prosecutors later dropped the charges against both men and filed misdemeanor batter charges against five police officers who had been at the scene.

A day before the hotel arrests, police pepper-sprayed and arrested a woman who had been filming a traffic stop in South Beach. The charge against the woman hasn't been dropped.