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Arizona House Committee Approves Bill To Make Filming Police Officers Illegal

On Monday, the Arizona House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would make filming police on the job illegal in some cases. 

House Bill 2319 was proposed by Fountain Hills Republican Rep. John Kavanagh, a former police officer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The bill, which passed Wednesday on a 31-28 vote, would make it unlawful for citizens to record police from up to 8 feet away while officers are engaged in “law enforcement activity.” 

If passed into law, the bill would make it illegal for a person to “knowingly make a video recording of law enforcement activity, including the handling of an emotionally disturbed person, if the person does not have the permission of the law enforcement officer” and is within 8 feet of the cop. The bill initially stipulated that it would be a crime to record within 15 feet of an officer, however Rep. Kavanagh changed the distance in an amendment. 

Anyone who is ordered by police to stop filming but continues to do so would face a class 3 misdemeanor and up to 30 days in jail. 

An amendment added by the House Appropriations Committee allows people to film their own interactions with police, as long as they are “not interfering with lawful police actions, including searching handcuffing or administering a field sobriety test.” 

The amendment also allows passengers in a vehicle to film as long as they don’t interfere with “lawful police actions.” 

Constitutional experts and civil rights advocates say the proposed law would be blatantly unconstitutional.  

“Courts have upheld that people have a constitutional right to videotape police activity, and now to say that it is illegal is just idiotic,” Dan Barr, an attorney who specializes in media and First Amendment cases, previously told the Arizona Mirror. “This would make the recording of the murder of George Floyd illegal.”

Kavanagh said he doesn’t feel the bill is unconstitutional because it only limits when police can be filmed instead of banning it entirely. 

“It distracts the cop against the person they are making enforcement against,” Kavanagh has said of people videotaping law enforcement. “If I ban videotaping, then it would be unconstitutional.” 

The bill now heads to the Senate.

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