Arizona bill would ban filming police within 15 feet

On Balance with Leland Vittert

(NewsNation Now) — A member of the Arizona legislature who spent decades as a police officer on the East Coast wants to ban the recording of officers doing their jobs as a matter of safety.

State Rep. John Kavanagh, a Republican, wrote a bill that would prohibit filming an officer without their permission within 15 feet in public places.

“I was a cop for 20 years,” Kavanagh said. “I know that if you are taking police action … if somebody suddenly starts to walk up to you, especially from behind, you don’t know if it’s an ordinary citizen filming you or if an accomplice or friend of the person you’re arresting is going to assault you.”

If the bill became law, violating it would be a petty offense. However, the bill also said if an offender didn’t follow a verbal warning it would escalate to a misdemeanor.

Kavanagh said he’s open to reducing the protected area.

Critics of the law point to the First Amendment rights of people in public spaces. The right to record police officers has also been upheld in federal court. Two examples are Glik v. Cunniffe in Boston in 2011 and ACLU v. Alvarez in Illinois in 2010.

Some have also pointed out that the murder of George Floyd may not have gained the attention it did without a bystander filming the four officers.

But Kavanagh said bodycam video provided some of the better looks at that scene, and he supports officers wearing cameras. He also said the technology in cameras is improving their ability to get clear shots at long range.

Still, the ACLU doesn’t buy his argument that filming police counts as interference with law enforcement.

“If someone is standing there holding a cellphone, it does not endanger the officer in any way,”  K.M. Bell with ACLU Arizona told AZMirror.

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