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Bill would criminalize bystanders who get within 25 feet of police after being told to stop

An Indiana police car is parked, facing away from the camera.
Justin Hicks
IPB News
A bill that would criminalize bystanders who get within 25 ft. of police after officers told them to stop advanced in the Indiana Legislature Tuesday.

Indiana lawmakers want to criminalize bystanders who get within 25 feet of police after being told to stop.

HB 1186 passed out of a Senate committee Tuesday.

The bill’s proponents said it’s about helping keep law enforcement and the public safe by stopping people from interfering with police while they’re doing their job.

Rep. Wendy McNamara (R-Evansville), the measure's author, called that 25-foot distance "live-saving space."

"This bill will give that person the opportunity to go back, give the officer the opportunity to say, 'Go stand by that post,' and de-escalate the situation," McNamara said.

Howard County Deputy Sheriff Jordan Buckley, representing the Indiana Sheriffs Association, said the bill is not meant to be a "tape measure law" where people will be arrested for standing technically within the 25-foot boundary.

“A police officer needs to be able to focus on the person or persons they are dealing with and not the distractions,” Buckley said.

And Plainfield Police Chief Kyle Pruitt, representing the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police, said officers would have discretion about using the law.

"If that person is there being supportive and trying to help the officers, they're certainly going to welcome that influence," Pruitt said.

Pruitt and others insisted the bill is about helping police control people who are being "antagonistic."

But that’s not what the bill actually says. It creates a crime for a person who encroaches on a 25-foot bubble after being told to stop while an officer is “engaged” in their duties.

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Indiana Public Defenders Council's Zach Stock said that term is vague. He brought up the example of police on the court at the end of a high school basketball game, there to help with crowd control.

"There's violation of their bubble pretty much throughout the celebration of the sectional championship," Stock said.

Opponents of the measure, like Young Americans For Liberty's Jason Riley, also said it infringes on an important check-and-balance of law enforcement.

“This bill just simply hinders the ability of bystanders to film and it can hurt the ability of potential witnesses to police misconduct,” Riley said.

The bill passed the committee along party lines and now heads to the full Senate.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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Brandon Smith