Outgoing Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed a bill Wednesday banning civilians from recording local and state police officers within 8 feet during times of conducting a "law enforcement activity."
The new law (House Bill 2319), which reportedly goes into effect Sept. 24, prohibits nonpolice officials from recording police officers from at-close range during certain situations, such as questioning a "suspicious" person, executing an arrest, issuing a summons or enforcing the law, or handling an "emotionally disturbed or disorderly person" exhibiting "abnormal" behavior.
The law also states that someone whose vehicle gets stopped by police may record their interactions with the assigning officers — if it does not interfere with "lawful police actions."
Any violations of this law will be addressed as a standalone misdemeanor.
State Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Ariz., who sponsored the legislation, recently argued in an op-ed that it's necessary to allow police a "buffer," especially around groups that become hostile and disruptive when trying to record police officers during their time of duty.
Kavanagh said these people can get "dangerously close" to potentially violent encounters.
"Police officers have no way of knowing whether the person approaching is an innocent bystander or an accomplice of the person they're arresting who might assault them," says Kavanagh.
"Consequently, officers become distracted and while turning away from the subject of the encounter, the officers could be assaulted by that subject or that subject could discard evidence or even escape," he added.
Kavanagh also said the quality of videos showing potential excessive-force incidents would not be affected, due to the modern sophistication of cellphone cameras.
Plus, Kavanagh believes a video taken from further away would likely show greater context.
In the past, video recordings of police interactions with civilians have been critical pieces of courtroom evidence, such as the 2020 arrest/murder of George Floyd by then-officer Derek Chauvin, formerly of the Minneapolis Police Department.
However, this new law might not have applied to that particular situation, since the majority of cellphone footage involving the Floyd incident had a buffer range of approximately 10-15 feet.
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