State senators passed a bill Monday designed to protect police officers through keeping their personal information off the internet. Some, however, worry the bill may have unintended consequences.
A dangerous type of online attack called doxxing was in the spotlight Monday at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
The bill by Sen. Paul Rosinio, R-Oklahoma City, prohibits posting a police officer’s name, birthdate, telephone number, place of employment and “a photograph or any other realistic likeness” among other things. Opponents said the bill may have unintended consequences.
Senate Bill 6 passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee 19-0 and the Senate Public Safety Committee 10-0 in February.
Following an article by the Black Wall Street Times highlighting concern posting video of law enforcement misconduct could break the law under the proposal, all but one Democrat who voted in favor of the bill in committee voted against it on the Senate floor.
“Does that include video that would be posted on Facebook?” Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, who had twice voted for the bill in committee asked.
“No. Only if the intent is to harass or intimidate the police officer, the law enforcement officer or their family. Just posting a video does not actually show that its intent to harass,” Rosinio said.
Matthews argued video showing law enforcement misconduct often does cause public outrage, potentially resulting in the officer feeling harassed.
“Do you believe that when a law enforcement officer hurts or harms someone and it’s posted on video or Facebook that people might get very, very upset and angry and the individual that did that, because it was posted and because people were mad at them, do you believe that they could consider that as a harassment?” Matthews asked.
“No,” Rosinio replied.
“A police officer in Norman called me and said he had to move his family from his home for three weeks because they were people in his front yard - people in his front yard - and he had little children,” Rosinio said. “This bill protects from that and at that point when we start doing that, we have lost control of civility in so many different ways.”
Matthews told his Senate colleagues to vote in favor of the bill is to vote to sweep police misconduct under the rug.
“Why do we want to take away transparency? We talk about transparency everywhere else in this building except for when we know that this is the only way you would've known what happened to George Floyd, but we just want to be in denial about that,” Matthews said.
The bill passed 39-8 and is now eligible to be heard before the full Oklahoma House of Representatives.