Jul 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

New Arizona law makes it illegal to film within 8 feet of police

Illustration of an iPhone's camera lenses shaped like police badges.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

It will soon be illegal in Arizona to film law enforcement activity within 8 feet of a police officer.

Gov. Doug Ducey this week signed into law a bill that supporters say will protect "police officers from harm." The law will take effect in September.

  • The bill was sponsored by Rep. John Kavanagh, a retired officer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

What he's saying: "Nobody walks up to a cop when he is questioning a suspicious person or arresting somebody and stands one or two feet away. Common sense says you’re asking for trouble," Kavanagh said on Arizona PBS.

Details: People can face misdemeanor charges if they film within 8 feet of an officer:

  • Questioning a suspicious person.
  • Conducting an arrest, issuing a summons or enforcing the law.
  • Handling an emotionally disturbed or disorderly person who is exhibiting abnormal behavior.

The other side: Criminal justice organizations, media companies and the American Civil Liberties Union opposed the bill.

  • “We believe that this bill stacks the deck against the public check on officer misconduct,” Timothy Sparling, of Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in March.

Zoom out: The new law comes as several law enforcement and prosecuting agencies across the state face lawsuits and increased scrutiny.

  • The Department of Justice is investigating the Phoenix Police Department, in part because of alleged retaliation against protesters.
  • More than 100 people who were arrested during protests following the murder of George Floyd are suing the department, ABC15 reports.

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