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Arizona Bans the Recording of Police Within 8 Feet

By: By Austin Deng

On July 6th, Doug Ducey, the Governor of Arizona, signed a bill into law that bans the recording of law enforcement while within 8 feet of police activity. Anyone caught doing so could be charged with a misdemeanor. The new law comes after a wave of such public documentation of police activity.

According to John Kavanagh, the bill’s sponsor, there is little reason for bystanders to be within such a short distance of law enforcement activity, and that the law’s purpose is to protect people from getting too close to a dangerous situation.

Many critics of the bill say that the law violates the First Amendment and doesn’t account for all situations involving police. While the bill makes exceptions for private property and subjects of police activity, Alan Chen, a law professor at the University of Denver, questions how people should respond if a police officer is moving towards them. The law also doesn’t specify whether the recordings that break the rule would be usable as evidence in a court case.

“It might deter them from actually recording or might make them back up even further than the 8 feet that the law requires,” Mr. Chen said. “There’s certainly some First Amendment concerns here.”

While the U.S Supreme Court hasn’t ruled on whether recording an officer is protected under the First Amendment, most federal courts have recognized it as a constitutional right.

The Arizona American Civil Liberties Union wrote on Twitter that the bill would also make holding police officers accountable more difficult. Personal recording devices have been used to keep police accountable in many notable cases.

For example, the Minneapolis Police department’s initial description of George Floyd’s death was contradicted by the cellphone recording of 17-year-old Darnella Frazier. The recording had shown how George Floyd had been suffocated when Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck.

The Arizona ACLU also wrote that the bill would chill “the use of the public’s most effective tool against police wrongdoing.”

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