police officer putting handcuffs on another person
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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed a law that makes it illegal to record videos within 8 feet of police activity.

The Republican governor signed the measure over the weekend, making it unlawful to record law enforcement officers if an individual is within 8 feet of an area where a person “knows or should reasonably know” that police activity is occurring or if they receive a verbal warning from an officer about the rule.

Republican state Rep. John Kavanagh, the bill’s sponsor, said that there was little reason for bystanders to be within 8 feet of an on-duty officer and that the law would protect people from getting close to dangerous situations and prevent them from interfering with police work.

Police activity includes questioning “suspicious” individuals, conducting an arrest, or handling a disorderly person.

A violation of the Arizona law, which takes effect in September, could land an individual a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail.

But critics say the new law runs afoul of the First Amendment.

“We are investigating all possible options for addressing this unconstitutional law,” K.M. Bell, an attorney for the ACLU of Arizona, told NPR.

Bell told NPR of several specific problems with the law, including that it was overly broad. For example, it limits what people can do on their phones while near a police officer, which amounts to a First Amendment violation, he told the outlet.

“This is a content-based restriction because I can stand 3 feet from an officer and play ‘Angry Birds,’ but I can’t stand 3 feet away and record them,” Bell said.

Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, said he finds the law “arbitrary” and “unworkable” because the 8-foot restriction does not accommodate dynamic situations like protests.

“Giving [police] the authority to tell someone to stop recording is a violation of the First Amendment,” he said.

The law comes just two years after the vital recording of a Minneapolis police officer killing George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes, killing him. Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin’s murder conviction and subsequent 22-year prison sentence were primarily because of a bystander’s video that captured his actions.

Stacey Brown photo

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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1 Comment

  1. The first time I heard this news about the latest bill imposed by the government of Arizona, I was shocked. First, what is the reason behind this? Secondly, I think we have the right to know what is happening. I think it has something to do with the former policeman sentenced to 22 years as the bystanders caught a video of his actions. This law needs some investigation and it has to be thoroughly examined. Is this constitutional?

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