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New Arizona Law Restricts Filming Of Police Officers

Filming police officers within eight feet soon will be considered a misdemeanor offense in some cases in Arizona after Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill prohibiting certain recordings of law-enforcement activity. The law bans people from recording police if those filming are within eight feet of officers and have received a verbal warning. It defines law enforcement activity as officers questioning suspicious people, conducting an arrest or generally enforcing the law, the Wall Street Journal reports. It also prohibits filming within eight feet of officers interacting with what the law calls “an emotionally disturbed person or disorderly” individual exhibiting abnormal behavior. The bill won approval in the Arizona legislature along party lines, with Republicans voting in favor of it. The bill was sponsored by Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh, who worked as a police officer on the East Coast for two decades. Kavanagh, in an op-ed earlier this year, said the eight-foot buffer was meant to prevent clashes between police and bystanders during tense situations.

The law has some limitations. If police activity is occurring indoors and on private property, a person authorized on that property can record within eight feet “unless a law enforcement officer determines that the person is interfering” or deems the area unsafe, the law says. A person who is the subject of police contact is allowed to record within eight feet in some cases, as long as they aren’t interfering with “lawful police actions,” the law states. David Loy of the First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit organization focused on protecting free speech, expects the law to be challenged in court for several reasons. Among them, he said, is that its wording is too vague, which creates potential for abuse. “If I’m filming a law enforcement officer having a conversation, how am I supposed to know whether that is questioning a suspicious person or giving directions, or discussing the weather?” he said.