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Legal Experts Question Miami Beach Ordinance In Case Of Officers Charged With Battery

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Shocking video showing a Miami Beach officer tackling a person videotaping the rough arrest that resulted in five officers being charged with first-degree battery and an ordinance recently passed by the commission arguably justifies the behavior.

"When you look at the ordinance and looking at the three elements is trying to prevent, the first one deals with interrupting, hindering, and interfering with law enforcement. We can understand that," said retired police officer Ignacio M. Alvarez.

For 25 years, Alvarez was in law enforcement. Now, an attorney, he says he agrees with efforts to help officers secure a crime scene.

"It's to prevent someone trying to play a reporter in interrupting or hindering an officer from doing his job. I understand that 100% an officer has a right to secure the crime scene," said Alvarez.

But Alvarez has concerns with the arrest of Khalid Vaughn, the bystander who videotaped this rough arrest at the Royal Palm Hotel last Monday.

"I'm surprised the ordinance has not been tested yet in the courts. They're not gonna be the first element which is basically about an officer doing his job," Alvarez said.

And he is not the only one raising concerns with the new Miami Beach law.

"You have a scenario where multiple police are now piling onto this one individual, who had no weapon and has not really committed any sort of crime and the response to the person who was videotaping with his cell phone is tackling him and they're using the ordinance, which by the city attorneys on admission was not supposed to be an arrestable offense," said former State Senator Dwight Bullard.

Bullard said the act of recording an officer during an arrest is for accountability and should not be treated as a crime.

"In the advent cell phone and video and filming police officers is the public outcry or police accountability, so then the responsibility that falls on city government and state government to create an accountability mechanism that should allow me to not have to use my cell phone and so if you have not fixed that problem... So, then why would you create another one by criminalizing the person holding the cell phone whose only job, hopefully, is to try to get some accountability for someone who potentially could be victimized by police officers," adds Bullard.

Attorney David Weinstein agrees, saying there are some constitutionality issues with the new ordinance.

"In the state of Florida, you're entitled to be in a public area and you're entitled to use your phone, your camera, your video camera. Whatever it might be and if you want to record whatever is going on around here, as long as in a public area or people don't have an expectation of privacy," said Weinstein.

And while those like former Senator Bullard say the ordinance was put in place after the death of George Floyd, for the sake of accountability, Weinstein says the new law doesn't justify the Miami Beach officers seen in this video.

"There was no reason for the officers to come at him and attack him because he was in a place where he had a right to be and doing what he was allowed to do," said Weinstein.

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