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INDIANAPOLIS — Evansville-area State Representative Wendy McNamara wants police to have more space to operate, and she has a specific amount in mind.

“Having that 25-foot perimeter around law enforcement so they can focus on what’s in front of them at hand is very vital to making sure that situations don’t escalate,” said McNamara.

She is the primary sponsor of a bill that easily passed the Indiana House last week on a 57-20 vote.

The measure, House Bill 1186, is simple enough.

A person who knowingly or intentionally approaches within twenty-five (25) feet of a law enforcement officer lawfully engaged in the execution of the law enforcement officer’s duties after the law enforcement officer has ordered the person to stop approaching commits unlawful encroachment on an investigation, a Class C misdemeanor.

There are already laws on the book that provide protection from interference from the public. But some in law enforcement say it’s not enough, which may explain why the Indiana State Police Fraternal Order of Police, the Evansville Fraternal Order of Police and the Indiana Sheriff’s Association all support the bill.

“The public almost has to touch you before you can tell them to move away from you. So, you can imagine trying to take someone into custody or investigate a crime and someone is getting in your face or getting right on top of you while you’re trying to do your job,” explained Vanderburgh County Sheriff Noah Robinson.

The specific distance in the bill may be the biggest challenge in potential enforcement. An arrest under the legislation may require law enforcement to submit some form of proof that a violator was inside 25 feet from where officers were working.

“Are they gonna get out a measuring tape and measure 25 feet? No, it’s just the distance that they think they need,” said McNamara.

Opposition to the bill includes the ACLU of Indiana. Public Policy Director Katie Blair pointed out citizen monitoring of police has produced evidence abuses.

“In recent years, we’ve seen tragic deaths at the hands of police officers captured on film, observed by citizens. This would make it impossible for citizens to observe police and really hold them accountable.”

The legislation moves on to the State Senate, where it has picked up a significant sponsor: Aaron Freeman, who is chairman of the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee.