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Arizona bans recording police within eight feet

By: Iris Shen

Recently, the governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, has signed a measure into law that makes it illegal for people to record the police within eight feet of activity. The public is concerned that this may inhibit efforts to make law enforcement operations more transparent.

The bill’s sponsor, State Representative John Kavanagh, said that there was little to no reason for bystanders to be within eight feet of a police officer and that the law would protect people from getting close to dangerous situations and prevent them from interfering with police work.

Law enforcement could question “suspicious” person (a person who got to close to the police), conduct an arrest or handle a disorderly person, according to the text of the bill. A violation is a misdemeanor offense, with a potential penalty of up to a month in jail and fines up to $500.

Alan Chen, a law professor at the University of Denver, said there were many questions about the law’s enforcement, including how people should respond if an officer moves toward them even even if the citizen was recording from more than eight feet away. “It might deter them from actually recording or might make them back up even further than the eight feet that the law requires,” he said. “There’s certainly some First Amendment concerns here.”

Cellphone videos of deadly police encounters recorded by witnesses have gained attention and been featured in courtrooms, though they do not always result in charges against officers.

This is very common, as they were seen in the cases of Darnella Frazier and Eric Garner.

The A.C.L.U. of Arizona wrote on Twitter that this law would make it more difficult to hold police officers accountable for misconduct.

The National Press Photographers Association sent a letter to Representative Kavanagh in February and said the bill violated constitutional free speech and press protections. The New York Times was one of more than 20 media organizations that signed the letter that said the law would be “unworkable” at protests and demonstrations.

Despite the anticipated backlash, the law officially goes into effect in September.

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