Oklahoma bill could make it illegal to post threatening content of police online

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Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Mark Nelson’s title which has since been corrected.

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A bill making it illegal to post personal and threatening information about a police officer online is one step closer to Governor Kevin Stitt’s desk. 

Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 2273 both state someone could be arrested if they post to an online site “the information of a law enforcement officer with the intent to threaten, intimidate, harass, or stalk.”

According to the bills, this includes “name, address, phone number, Social Security number,” or “a photograph or any other realistic likeness.”

The bill goes on to say, “and as a result, causes, attempts to cause or would be reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress or financial loss to that person, or to that officer’s family or household member or intimate partner.”

Senator Kevin Matthews admits he voted ‘yes’ in committee last week, but after learning more about the bill, he voted ‘no’ on the Senate floor Monday afternoon. 

Senator Matthews says he flipped his stance after he learned the language in the bill was too vague. 

“If it’s not clear in the bill, we should not pass it,” Senator Kevin Matthews said. “I am very disappointed that the presenter was not clear when I asked that specific question ‘does it include video?’ He said no.”

The first offence would be a misdemeanor followed by a felony on the second offence. 

“For George Floyd, the only reason we know what happened is because it was videotaped,” Senator Matthews said. 

Mark Nelson, the President of Oklahoma’s Fraternal Order of Police, tells KFOR he’s in full support. 

“We are talking about people’s livelihoods and people’s families,” FOP President Mark Nelson said. “It’s off limits. People need to be held accountable who think this behavior is appropriate.”

Monday afternoon, SB 6 passed on the Senate floor, advancing to the House. 

The companion bill, HB 2273, is waiting to be heard on the House floor. 

State Representative Jason Lowe (D) voted ‘yes’ to HB 2273 in committee. Representative Lowe released this statement to KFOR Monday:

“As an African American male and a criminal defense attorney I strongly support protecting our first amendment right to record police officers Misconduct. I voted for this bill in committee to get it on the house floor for a full vote to fundamentally change it with a floor amendment- which would protect all citizens from the practice of doxxing. If my floor amendment is not accepted, I will be voting NO on HB 2273.”

“People could have the harm or being arrested and jailed for any number of days by the same force they are trying to hold accountable,” Director of Policy and Advocacy at ACLU Oklahoma Nicole McAfee said. 

The ACLU of Oklahoma tells KFOR it’s firmly against both bills. 

“I hope the legislature will care about free speech and don’t harm people’s rights to engage in accountability,” McAfee said. 

“We are interested in building the trust,” Mark Nelson said. “We don’t see how this in any shape or form diminishes that.”

KFOR reached out to both authors, Representative Josh West and Senator Paul Rosino, and haven’t heard back yet.

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