Aug 23, 2022 - News

ACLU, media sue Arizona over law prohibiting up-close police filming

Phone with evidence seal tape across screen
Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

The ACLU of Arizona and 10 media organizations on Tuesday sued the state over a law set to take effect next month that would make it illegal to film police officers within 8 feet of law enforcement activity.

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.

What they're saying: "At a time when the public is demanding police accountability, Arizona wants to criminalize the public's most effective tool for shining a light on police violence," ACLU of Arizona legal director Jared Keenan said.

  • The group argues the new law would unconstitutionally suppress free speech.

The other side: "Nobody walks up to a cop when he is questioning a suspicious person or arresting somebody and stands 1 or 2 feet away. Common sense says you're asking for trouble," Rep. John Kavanagh, who sponsored the bill, said in March on Arizona PBS.

Context: The new law comes as Arizona and the nation grapple with police accountability.

  • The Phoenix Police Department, the largest law enforcement agency in the state, is under Department of Justice investigation, in part because of alleged retaliation against protesters in the weeks following George Floyd's murder.
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