Arizona Passes Law Limiting Citizens To Film Police

Media groups and activists break down the flaws in the law itself

As of last Thursday Doug Ducey, Arizona’s governor, signed off on a law preventing citizens from recording police officers without their permission. The law takes effect this September.

According to AP News, it becomes illegal in the state of Arizona for the public to take video of a law enforcement officer without the officer’s consent if he or she is eight feet or closer. The law allows officers to demand a person to stop recording even if the officer happens to be on an owner’s private property. Failure to comply would result in a misdemeanor and possible fine without jail time.

The outlet also notes that the law will only make expectations for those who are not being searched or arrested. A person may record if they’re in a structure or vehicle where it would be difficult to maintain a greater than eight foot distance.

The law, which is concerning to media organizations, does not make any exceptions for the press, and is being called out for blatantly violating First Amendment rights.

Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, told the  AP that the one-size-fits-all limits and “arbitrary distances of 8 feet. It’s also unclear if someone is breaking the law if an officer approaches them within a few feet.”

John Kavanagh, a Republican state representative who sponsored the bill, told The AP, “There needs to be a law that protects officers from people who either have very poor judgment or sinister motives.”

Kavanagh, who was a police officer for 20 years, expressed his support for the law, explaining, “I’m pleased that a very reasonable law that promotes the safety of police officers and those involved in police stops and bystanders has been signed into law.” He continued, “It promotes everybody’s safety yet still allows people to reasonably videotape police activity as is their right.”

Kavanagh explained that citizen recordings have risked the safety of police or made it possible for suspects to escape. “Rumblings two years ago about anti-police groups who deliberately approach officers while filming inspired draft legislation. There was a risk of an officer being injured or a suspect escaping or ditching evidence”

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According to the AP, the idea to put the law into place came after the U.S Department of Justice took initiative to investigate allegations of Phoenix police using “excessive force and abusing people experiencing homelessness,” after being vocally criticized by its Black and Brown citizens for their actions.

Phoenix’s police department was ranked #1 in deadly use of force compared to other national departments this year, as reported by ABC Arizona.

Civil rights groups and activists are opposed to this law, including the Rev. Jarrett Maupin, who is an activist in Phoenix. Mauphin said that “proximity is not a luxury” for victims who deal with excessive force from the police. “Sometimes the victims and the bystanders have no choice but to be within the proximity that the bill now prohibits.” Mauphin continues to speak out that he thinks this law is a tactic to help police avoid responsibility.

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“What happens when you’re in situations like we saw during all of the protests for the past couple of years, where you have multiple people with cameras? We’re not just talking about journalists,” Osterreicher tells the outlet. “And you’ve got multiple police officers. Is everybody going to be running around with a ruler?”

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