The Los Angeles police chief on Tuesday said a proposed new city law aimed at protecting celebrities from aggressive paparazzi would be ambiguous and impossible to enforce.
Chief William Bratton said in a report that existing laws on jaywalking, speeding and assault could be used to deter aggressive photographers, whose ’round-the-clock pursuit of singer Britney Spears and other celebrities prompted calls for a crackdown.
Los Angeles councilman Dennis Zine proposed creating a “personal safety zone” to regulate paparazzi shortly after city police in January spent $25,000 to escort Spears from her home across town to a psychiatric unit in the middle of the night.
The police said roadblocks and an escort by at least a dozen motorcycles and squad cars were needed to prevent photographers from documenting what became the second trip by the troubled pop star to the hospital in a month.
The ploy instead gave news helicopters and the world media lengthy television pictures of the Spears’ convoy.
Zine, a former police officer, said the Los Angeles paparazzi were becoming increasingly aggressive and posed a danger both to Hollywood stars and members of the public.
Celebrities like Spears and Paris Hilton are staked out 24 hours a day, and sometimes pursued in high-speed car chases by dozens of paparazzi whose numbers in Los Angeles have swelled to between 300 to 400 from about 25 some 15 years ago.
Zine suggested creating a minimum “personal safety zone” of several feet of clear space between paparazzi and the individuals they are photographing. The proposed law has yet to be debated by the city council.
Bratton said however that the proposal raised questions about who is classified as a “celebrity” or “paparazzo,” whether the LAPD is showing favoritism toward stars and whether the general public is entitled to the same protection.
He also suggested there may be constitutional concerns with any new ordinance. He highlighted the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under law — something that could become an issue in defining who is a celebrity or a paparazzo.
He said it would “create an inequitable and ambiguous code that would likely be unenforceable.”
Zine called Bratton’s comments premature and vowed to pursue his proposal.
“We need specific sections (of the law) dealing with the paparazzi,” Zine told reporters.
“What do we do the next time Britney Spears has to go to the hospital? Do we spend another $25,000 and (deploy) those police resources that are stretched so far?” he said.
An inquest in London ruled on Monday that Britain’s Princess Diana and her lover Dodi al-Fayed were unlawfully killed by the grossly negligent driving of their chauffeur and paparazzi photographers pursuing them into a Paris road tunnel 10 years ago.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.