Arizona to ban people from filming police within 8ft | Arizona

A new law in Arizona bans people from taking close-range recordings of police, ostensibly to prevent them getting dangerously close to potentially violent encounters, though some critics have described it as a threat to the first amendment.

The new law prohibits anyone within 8ft of law enforcement officers from recording police activity. Violators will face a misdemeanor charge and up to 30 days in jail, though only after ignoring a verbal warning.

The bill includes some exceptions. A person is allowed to record if they are the one being questioned by a police officer, if they are an occupant in a vehicle during a traffic stop, or if they are in a structure on private property where law enforcement activity is occurring, reports the Arizona Republic.

The new law will take effect on 24 September.

The Arizona state representative John Kavanagh, who sponsored the bill, wrote in USA Today that the new law was meant to protect law enforcement officers from harm or distraction while conducting their job.

First amendment advocates have condemned the bill as unconstitutional, vague and giving police disproportionate discretion to enforce.

“Members of the public have a first amendment right to video police in public places and what this tries to do is discourage people from doing that,” said constitutional attorney Dan Barr in a prior interview with AZ Family, a local news affiliate.

Barr added that laws already exist preventing people from interfering with police action, making the new law redundant.

The previous version of the bill banned anyone within 15ft of police from recording. Over a dozen news, photography and first amendment advocacy organizations publicly opposed it, filing an official objection in February 2022 that it “violates not only the free speech and press clauses of the first amendment, but also runs counter to the ‘clearly established right’ to photograph and record police officers performing their official duties in a public place”.

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