In no uncertain terms, Councilman Ken Zalewski, D-District 5, shot down a proposal by Councilman Bob Doherty, D-District 4, that would make it a crime for police to prohibit citizens from videotaping officers while they work.
“I will state this clearly to you right now: If any legislation is presented to the Public Safety Committee that attempts to target police officers for actions that are already covered by law and procedure, I will vote against it,” Zalewski wrote to Det. Sgt. Sean Kittle in response to a letter he addressed to the entire Council. “In addition, I would encourage my colleagues to vote against it as well.
“This is a bit presumptuous of me, but I’m fairly confident that any such legislation would never make it out of committee.”
Doherty, chair of the Public Safety Committee, said his ordinance would carry a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 15 days in jail.
Kittle, in his letter to the Council, said he was “disheartened” by the ordinance, not because he disagrees with it in principal but because there are already laws protecting a citizen’s right to videotape police officers. Also, he said, it violates the Constitution by singling out police officers.
“I am disheartened because I expect much more from an elected city official than an attempt to advance legislation that is directed at only a select group in our society,” Kittle wrote. “A naïve person may believe your intent is honorable because of misconceptions that exist. But, if you simply change the words from “Troy Police Officer” and replace it with some other specific group (ex: race, religion, disability, etc.) you may begin to realize that you, as an elected official, are not embracing the basic principles held in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Earlier, Capt. John Cooney called the ordinance an "insult."
Doherty has not formally proposed the legislation but it came out of a third Public Safety Committee meeting over the Jan. 25 melee at Kokopells bar that ended with eight officers injured – six requiring hospital care – and eight people arrested for a host of crimes including disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
During the first, well-attended Public Safety Committee meeting, many of the public claimed the TPD implements institutionalized racism and often uses excessive force with little or no ramifications. The criticism continued during the second, but Police Chief John Tedesco did have an opportunity to respond to the accusations and many citizens defended the police not only for their actions on Jan. 25 but in general.
The letters came to this blog through someone with close ties to the Council.