By: Alice Su
On Wednesday, Governor Doug Ducey signed a law that made recording videos of authorities within eight feet of police activity illegal. It will go into effect in September. Violations could result in a $500 fine or a 30 day jail sentence.
State Representative John Kavanagh, the bill’s sponsor, mentioned in an op-ed that he proposed the bill because police officers expressed concerns about “groups hostile to the police.”
“I can think of no reason why any responsible person would need to come closer than eight feet to a police officer engaged in a hostile or potentially hostile encounter,” Mr. Kavanagh wrote in the same op-ed. “Such an approach is unreasonable, unnecessary, and unsafe and should be made illegal.”
However, the new law will reduce transparency around law enforcement. This has alarmed many civil rights groups. The killings of Eric Garner (Staten Island, N.Y) and George Floyd (Minneapolis) are two examples of video evidence capturing police misconduct. In George Floyd’s case, a video recorded by 17 year old Darnella Frazier showed police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck and killing him. This contradicted the initial police report.
In February, The National Press Photographers Association sent Mr. Kavanagh a letter saying that the bill violated constitutional free speech and press protections. The New York Times was one of 20 or more media organizations that signed the letter, which stated that the law would be “unworkable” at protests.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona wrote on Twitter that this bill would cool “the use of the public’s most effective tool against police wrongdoing” and make it more challenging to rightly blame police officers for misconduct. Could this controversial bill be the next big case in the Supreme Court?