Filming an officer at close range without consent is now a legally punishable offense in the state of Arizona. Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation this week that restricts the public from “knowingly” filming officers within an eight-foot range.
The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. John Kavanagh. It states that those on private property must also seek consent and mind the required distance. Officers can also request filming be ceased if an area is deemed unsafe, or if filming interferes with police activity. Violation of the law would result in a fine. Failure to stop filming after an officer’s request would result in a misdemeanor and possible sentence of 30 days in jail.
The bill comes at a time when the public is demanding transparency and police reform. Advocates against the new law argue it will make it easier for officers to violate an individual’s civil rights. Kavanagh instead views the law as a means to further provide officers protection while in the field.
“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,” Kavanagh said Friday (July 8). “It promotes everybody’s safety yet still allows people to reasonably videotape police activity as is their right.”
Kavanagh was on the force for 20 years. His initial bill proposed that bystanders be at minimum 15-feet away from officers while filming. He later made an amendment to create an exception allowing individuals being questioned by officers to film the interaction.
Last year the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into the pattern of practices of the Phoenix Police Department. The goal of the probe is to determine if officers engage in “retaliatory activity against people for conduct protected by the First Amendment.” The city’s police have recently come under scrutiny for disproportionately policing Black and brown communities.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the investigation will ultimately determine if “the Constitution or federal law has been violated, our aim is to promote transparency and accountability. This increases public trust, which in turn increases public safety. We know that law enforcement shares these goals.”