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Arizona Governor Bans People from Recording Police Within Eight Feet

By: Sarah Zhong

Last Wednesday, the governor of Arizona signed a law that makes it illegal to record police within eight feet of police activity.

This law goes into effect in September. Many activists have criticized the law. “Governor Ducey has made it a crime for someone to film law enforcement if an officer is less than eight feet away from them-chilling the use of the public’s most effective tool against police wrongdoing in violation of our First Amendment rights,” K.M. Bell, an ACLU attorney of Arizona, said. She added, “By limiting our ability to record police interactions, this law will undoubtedly make it even more difficult to hold police officers accountable for misconduct.”

The bill’s text says law enforcement activity could include questioning a skeptical person, conducting an arrest, or handling an unruly person. A violation is a misdemeanor offense; violators can faceup to 30 days in jail and fines of up to $500.

There are exceptions for people on private property, in a vehicle stopped by the police, or people who are the subjects of police contact. However, this is if they do not interfere with the police activity. There are no exceptions for journalists, however.

“It might deter them from actually recording or might make them back up even further than the eight feet that the law requires. There’s certainly some First Amendment concerns here,” Alan Chen, a law professor at the University of Denver, said.

Arizona Police Association executive director, Joe Clure, said, “It’s not at all about recording-please record but do it from a distance that does not interfere with the police officer’s task at hand.” He added, “There’s no reason to be walking up on a police officer and getting in the space of their ability to do their job.” He mentioned that modern cameras and cellphones can still record from big distances away.

The answer to the question of whether this law will go into effect or not is in the supreme court’s jurisdiction. Meanwhile, the activists are trying to speak against the possibility.

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