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Arizona Panel Favors Ban on Filming Police Within Eight Feet

The Arizona House of Representatives' Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would make it illegal to film within eight feet of a police officer, the Associated Press reports. The bill, approved on a partisan 7 to 5 vote, originally would have prohibited filming within fifteen feet of officers, but was amended due to constitutional concerns. The bill allows those in a car stopped by the police or who are being questioned by the police to film the interaction and is triggered only when the police encounter in question is deemed potentially dangerous. The bill's sponsor, John Kavanagh, argues that it strikes a balance between citizens' rights to see officers in action with officers' concerns of safety. Media groups say the bill still raises constitutional issues. The National Press Photographers Association said the measure "runs counter to the ‘clearly established right’ to photograph and record police officers performing their official duties in a public place.”

Critics say the bill would lead to police officers being able to decide on the spot what First Amendment protections are appropriate, which they claim could have affected cases such as the killing of George Floyd. The amendment changing the limit from 15 feet to eight feet mitigates some of these concerns, but still allows the police to make judgments on how filming can take place. The bill classifies a violation of the eight foot limit as a petty offense, the lowest classification for crime in Arizona. Someone refusing to comply with a police order to stop filming could be subject to a low-level misdemeanor that carries a possible 30-day jail sentence.


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