Arizona law attacks First Amendment by restricting video recording of police activity

By Stacy M. Brown | NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

(NNPA) – Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has signed a bill that makes it illegal to record videos within eight feet of police activity.

The law comes just two years after life-saving recording of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes, killing him.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is serving a 22-year sentence primarily because of bystander video that captured his actions.

The Arizona law, which takes effect in September, also comes as Akron police remain under investigation for firing at least 90 shots at the unarmed African-American DoorDash driver Jayland Walker, punching him more than 60 times and killing the 25-year-old.

A violation of Arizona law could result in a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail.

The measure states that it is illegal to record law enforcement officers if a person is within eight feet of an area where the ‘person knows or reasonably ought to know’ that police activity is occurring or if she receives a verbal warning from a cop about the rule.

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

State Rep. John Kavanagh, the bill’s sponsor, said there was no reason for bystanders to come within eight feet of an on-duty police officer and that the law would prevent people from approaching dangerous situations and preventing them from interfering with police work. .

“We are exploring all possible options to remedy this unconstitutional law,” ACLU of Arizona attorney KM Bell told NPR.

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

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

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

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

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