Arizona Passes Law Prohibiting Citizens From Freely Filming Police

Rear View Of Photographer Photographing

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A vital tool for exposing extreme and sometimes deadly police encounters is changing in Arizona. Republican Gov. Doug Dacey signed off on a law last week prohibiting citizens from filming law enforcement without their permission, according to the Associated Press.

Starting in September, people will face penalties if they're caught recording police officers without their consent within eight feet (2.5 meters) or closer. If someone is filming on private property without the owner's consent, authorities can order the person recording to stop if they're found interfering or in an unsafe area, reporters say. Penalities include a misdemeanor charge and possibly a fine without jail time.

Republican Rep. John Kavanaugh, the bill's sponsor, says the new law protects officers from people who “either have very poor judgment or sinister motives."

“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 says, who served as a police officer for 20 years. “It promotes everybody’s safety yet still allows people to reasonably videotape police activity as is their right.”

AP notes there are exceptions to the law. People who are the direct subject of police encounters can film, including traffic stops, police questioning, and situations involving mental or behavioral issues. You cannot record if you're being arrested or searched.

"Those exceptions were based upon input from all sorts of people, including the [American Civil Liberties Union]," Kavanaugh explains.

Civil rights groups and the media have challenged the law's constitutionality and intentions behind it, including Phoenix activist Rev. Jarrett Maupin. He believes the new law is a way for police to avoid responsibility

“Proximity is not a luxury in terms of documenting the actions of officers who engage in acts of brutality,” Maupin, who represents victims of excessive police force, told reporters. "Sometimes the victims and the bystanders have no choice but to be within the proximity that the bill now prohibits.”

This legislation comes as activists, the media, and even politicians are calling for more transparency from law enforcement agencies around the country. Following the high-profile killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and more Black victims, the U.S. Justice Department has opened probes into several police departments across the country, including Minneapolis and Louisville.

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