New Arizona House Bill Seeks to impose a limit on witness videotaping of police activity

In Arizona, USA, a bill has been proposed that would limit how citizens film law enforcement.

This bill is proposed by a Republican State Representative named John Kavanagh who said that it is necessary to pass this bill as it will help protect both the police officers and the public. But others are concerned about this bill as there are constitutional issues involved here.

This bill proposed into the state legislature in Arizona would restrict the times and locations at which citizens can videotape officers performing their duties.

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What’s in the Bill?

House Bill 2319 proposes to restrict people’s ability to record/videotape any police action or any sort of law enforcement activity.

When Tucson police officers expressed worries about persons they’d seen at crime scenes, Republican State Representative John Kavanagh decided to introduce the bill.

Stating the concerns of the officers, Kavanagh said, “While the officers are taking police action, such as arresting people, they come right up behind the officer within feet to do the filming”. He said that the police operations can be hindered by civilians filming too near to cops.

If this proposed bill is passed then anyone within 15 feet of a law enforcement officer would need their permission to record if they’re inside or outside.

Further, Kavanagh asked, “What is a safe distance that citizens can videotape police from and still get all the action without causing distraction and potential injury to both the officer and filmer alike?”

Issues & Questions of constitutionality

Arizona already has a law prohibiting civilians from interfering with law officers in the course of their duties, according to constitutional lawyer Dan Barr.

According to Barr, whether or not someone is physically interfering with an arrest “does not make any difference if you’re holding your camera up or not.”
In addition to this, he said, the courts have consistently ruled that people have the right to film law enforcement officers in public.

As Barr puts it, the bill is a “solution in search of a problem.”

He said, “If you’re a police officer and you don’t want to be videoed it gives them another arrow in their quiver to say, ‘Back off’, ‘Move away’, ‘Turn off the camera’.”

As per Kavanagh’s statement, he is reviewing the bill with the help of legislative attorneys and is open to making changes to ensure that it remains constitutional. There will be an amendment that allows persons who are actively involved in the law enforcement action to record their actions.

Kavanagh said, “I want to legally protect police officers and those who will film them.”

Recent cases of cell phone videos

There have been recent incidents involving the use of cell phone footage. In those cases, Kavanagh said, the majority of Arizona’s law enforcement personnel wear body cameras, so there will be more video evidence.

Cell phone video has documented both the good deeds of law enforcement personnel and those that have sparked controversy in Arizona and the rest of the country.

Barr points out that the death of George Floyd was caught on camera by a user’s cell phone. Barr said the footage was vital in convicting the officer who shot and killed George Floyd.

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