Arizona Bill Will Make Recording Police Officers Within 8 Feet Illegal

The legislation was signed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday. Violators could be hit with a misdemeanor charge under certain circumstances.

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A new Arizona law is receiving backlash for restricting how and when civilians can record on-duty police officers.

GOP Gov. Doug Ducey signed HB 2319 into law on Wednesday, making it illegal for anyone to knowingly film a cop within eight feet under certain circumstances. The legislation prohibits people from recording officers who are performing select “law enforcement activity,” such as questioning a suspicious person; conducting an arrest, issuing a summons or enforcing the law; or handling an emotionally disturbed or disorderly person who is exhibiting abnormal behavior.

The law states violators will be given a verbal warning to stop filming the activity; however, they could be hit with a misdemeanor if they refuse to comply with officers’ orders. Exceptions include individuals who are filming on private property they have permission to occupy; passengers in a vehicle that has been stopped; and a person who is the subject of police activity, as long as they’re not being handcuffed, searched, or taking a sobriety test. 

The bill was sponsored by Rep. John Kavanagh, a former police officer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The Republican lawmaker argued the law would prevent “violence and misunderstandings,” as well a protect officers “from harm.”

A number of activists say the legislation not only infringes on people’s rights, it may also allow cops to act with impunity. Opponents point to the video of George Floyd’s 2020 police killing, which reignited a worldwide movement against police brutality. 

“Governor Ducey has made it a crime for someone to film law enforcement if an officer is less than eight feet from them — chilling the use of the public’s most effective tool against police wrongdoing in violation of our First Amendment rights,” American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona staff attorney K.M. Bell told Insider. “By limiting our ability to record police interactions, this law will undoubtedly make it even more difficult to hold police officers accountable for misconduct.”

The law will reportedly take effect in September.

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