Judge rules in favor of South Bend in 25-foot ‘buffer zone’ lawsuit

  • Comments
  • Print
(Adobe Stock photo)

A federal judge on Friday rejected a request to block an Indiana law establishing a so-called “buffer zone” around law enforcement during official duties, a measure that includes both the public and the press.

Under House Enrolled Act 1186, law enforcement officers were granted a 25-foot buffer zone from bystanders around police activity. This came over the objections of advocacy groups who warned it would infringe on public efforts to document police misconduct. Authors and supporters of the measure said it would keep law enforcement safer and those who violate an officer’s order could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana filed a lawsuit in August on behalf of South Bend’s Donald Nicodemus, whose ”Freedom 2 Film” YouTube channel captures his interactions with the local police force, saying the law infringed on his constitutional rights.

Nicodemus has previously encountered controversies as a “citizen journalist” and captured video of an officer ordering Nicodemus to stand 25 feet away.

But U.S. District Court Judge Damon R. Leichty appeared not to sympathize with the ACLU’s arguments and found the law constitutional.

“Indiana’s buffer law has many constitutional applications within its plainly legitimate sweep. It never once permits an officer to tell a reporter or citizen-journalist to leave altogether or to cease recording police activity,” Leichty said in a 15-page ruling. “And at 25 feet, in measure small steps from an officer’s work, this law has only an incidental effect on the public’s First Amendment right to capture audio and video and otherwise scrutinize police conduct.”

The ACLU, in a release, said it planned to appeal the decision.

“We’re obviously disappointed in this decision, as we believe this new law gives unbridled discretion to law enforcement officers and invites content and viewpoint-based discrimination,” said Ken Falk, legal director at the ACLU of Indiana. “With this ruling, police officers will continue to have unchecked authority to prohibit citizens from approaching within 25 feet of the officers to observe their actions, even if the actions of the citizens are not and will not interfere with the police.”

A separate lawsuit filed by several media entities in Indiana’s Southern District Court is ongoing.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

8 thoughts on “Judge rules in favor of South Bend in 25-foot ‘buffer zone’ lawsuit

  1. The buffer zone law is merely a way for Law Enforcement to justify their harassment of journalists. The worst abusers of the statute will be the smaller, less professional, lower standards police forces.

  2. This law is a good law. People need keep a distance.
    Police need to be able to do their jobs safely and effectively.

    The anti police social justice pukes hate the police until they need them.

    1. So you say all journalists are pukes? It’s obvious we’re dealing with a Rhodes scholar.

    2. It hasn’t occurred to some people that for some people, whether well intentioned or for
      ill will can get in the way of police trying to do their jobs.

      Big city police departments all over the country are having a horrible time trying to hire and retain police officers since the BLM movement & riots. You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to understand why.

      And yes, there are many leftwing journalists that helped fuel the fires of 2020.

    3. Police departments could be having trouble hiring and retaining officers because they’re finally being held accountable for their actions at work, like 95% of those of us who are employed. Many officers were able to get away with a lot for a long time.

      Anyway, violent crime has been falling even with less officers. Let the rotten ones quit, be fired, and stay away from the profession all together. Our country is over policed anyway, but it’s a necessary evil since one party is obsessed with having everyone armed with a gun.

  3. Wesley,

    No doubt that there are bad apples in every profession. Law enforcement
    included. The bad apples need to be weeded out. Especially in a profession
    where they are entrusted to carry guns and use lethal force if needed.

    Violent crime has fallen in many cities, but not to the pre George Floyd levels.
    Not by a long shot and certainly not in most Dem Progressive run cities.

    Big city Police departments all across the country are having a horrible time
    recruiting, hiring, and retaining police officers since the George Floyd protests and riots.
    Especially in cities where BLM/Antifa were the most active and violent. AND! Those cities have NOT seen a decline in their violent crime at all. Think
    Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, and others.

    Applicants applying for positions on police departments has plummeted to their lowest levels.

    The horrible spike in shootings, murders, and other violent crimes happened before the new gun laws were passed.

    The rules of the game since the BLM/Antifa rprotests and riots definitely
    benefit the criminals. And, the criminals know it.

  4. First, we heard “police bodycams” will record all of the misconduct. Now we find that the “Body Cams” are documenting the excellent but difficult situations encountered by Law Enforcement on a daily basis. So, where do the unhinged left turn next. Oh, I know, we have to be able to record it ourselves …. from inches away. What next? I can only imagine. Support law enforcement!

Get the best of Indiana business news. ONLY $1/week Subscribe Now

Get the best of Indiana business news. ONLY $1/week Subscribe Now

Get the best of Indiana business news. ONLY $1/week Subscribe Now

Get the best of Indiana business news. ONLY $1/week Subscribe Now

Get the best of Indiana business news.

Limited-time introductory offer for new subscribers

ONLY $1/week

Cancel anytime

Subscribe Now

Already a paid subscriber? Log In

Get the best of Indiana business news.

Limited-time introductory offer for new subscribers

ONLY $1/week

Cancel anytime

Subscribe Now

Already a paid subscriber? Log In

Get the best of Indiana business news.

Limited-time introductory offer for new subscribers

ONLY $1/week

Cancel anytime

Subscribe Now

Already a paid subscriber? Log In

Get the best of Indiana business news.

Limited-time introductory offer for new subscribers

ONLY $1/week

Cancel anytime

Subscribe Now

Already a paid subscriber? Log In