Arizona's Governor signed a law restricting filming police officers

PHOENIX aEUR Arizona's governor signed a law restricting how the public can view police officers at a time of increasing transparency in law enforcement.

NewsEditor
NewsEditor
09 July 2022 Saturday 13:18
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Arizona's Governor signed a law restricting filming police officers

PHOENIX aEUR Arizona's governor signed a law restricting how the public can view police officers at a time of increasing transparency in law enforcement.

The Republican Governor signed the measure against civil rights and media organizations. Doug Ducey signed Thursday. Arizona law now makes it illegal to videotape officers within 8 feet (2.25 meters) of them without permission.

If a police officer discovers that they are interfering with safety or property, then the person recording can be stopped. This is a misdemeanor and would most likely result in a fine, but no jail sentence.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. John Kavanagh said that a law must be passed to protect officers from those who "either possess very poor judgments or sinister motives."

Kavanagh stated Friday that he was happy to see a reasonable law passed that protects both police officers and all those involved in stops and bystanders. It promotes everyone's safety, yet allows people to reasonably tape police activity as their right.

This move comes almost a year after U.S. Department of Justice opened a wide-ranging investigation into Phoenix's police force to determine if officers had been using excessive force or abusing homeless people. Similar to similar investigations in Minneapolis and Louisville in recent months, it's also similar.

Phoenix Police Department is the fifth-largest in the country. It has been criticised for using force against Native American and Black residents.

K.M. Bell, the staff attorney of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona (ACLU), is incredulous.

According to Bell, federal appellate courts have already ruled that recording police "is a clearly established right."

Real-life situations will not allow the law to apply.

"We are talking about people being allowed to go public places and having the right to do so. Bell stated that they are not talking about breaking into (National Security Agency) buildings.

Kavanagh, a 20-year veteran police officer, modified the legislation to apply to certain types police actions. This includes encounters with suspects or those with mental or behavioral health issues.

There are exceptions to the law for those who are directly subject to police interaction. As long as they're not being searched or arrested, they can still film. Anyone who is stopped by police, or being questioned about it, can film the encounter.

He said that the exceptions were made based on input from many people, including ACLU members.

Two years ago, there were rumblings about anti-police groups that deliberately approached officers while filming. This inspired draft legislation. Kavanagh stated that there was the possibility of an officer getting hurt or a suspect fleeing or abandoning evidence.

The Rev. Jarrett Maupin is a Phoenix activist who has represented victims of excessive police force. Because video taken by witnesses was uploaded online, some of these cases were more well-known.

One case involved a Black couple who had their police officers point guns at their children after their daughter bought a doll in a store without them knowing. The city paid them $475,000.

Maupin believes that the law is a tool to avoid police responsibility.

Maupin stated that "proximity is not an option for documenting the acts of brutality by officers." Sometimes victims and bystanders are forced to live within the bane of the bill.

Bell stated that it is unlikely other states will follow Bell's lead to limit the recording of police officers in response to questions about constitutionality.

The new law does not make any exceptions for the media.

The Associated Press and other media groups opposed the bill. They also signed onto a letter signed by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) opposing the bill.

Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel of the NPPA, stated that it is impossible to set one-size-fits all conditions for police filming. If an officer approaches someone within a few feet, it's not clear if they are breaking the law.

"What happens when there are multiple cameras and people around you, like the ones we witnessed during the protests of the past two years?" Osterreicher stated that journalists are not the only ones we're referring to. "And you have multiple police officers. Are they going to all be running around with rulers?

The revolution in policing has been wrought by cell phone cameras. One of the most notable examples is the 2020 killing George Floyd. But Kavanagh stated that a law like Arizona wouldn't have had an impact because it was filmed from a further distance.

Osterreicher claimed that a police officer can invoke the law regardless of how far away the person filming is.

However, that did not happen in Floyd's case.

Osterreicher stated that despite all the bad things they did, they never told her to turn off her camera or interfere with her recording.

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