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Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation banning residents from recording video within eight feet of “police activity” on Sunday.
The law classifies knowingly filming within eight feet of officers as a class 3 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail, $500 in fines and up to a year in probation, according to Arizona law. The law says officers must warn anyone filming at least once before they can be charged with a crime.
The legislation defines police activity as any time law enforcement officers are conducting an arrest, questioning a suspicious person, issuing a summons, handling an emotionally disturbed or disorderly person who is exhibiting abnormal behavior, or enforcing the law.
Critics argue the law could permit officers to simply move toward anyone filming them in order to legally halt the recording.
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State Rep. John Kavanagh, the Repulbican who introduced the bill, argues officers would have no reason to move toward someone filming beyond the eight-foot perimeter so long as the person wasn’t being suspicious, according to the Arizona Mirror.
Democrats in the state legislature disagreed.
“I have participated in efforts to film police officers that are doing their jobs and you are absolutely a suspicious person to law enforcement at that point. And they aggressively come towards you to see why you were filming,” state Sen. Martin Quezada told the Mirror.
The new law comes roughly a year after President Joe Biden’s Justice Department announced an investigation into the Phoenix Police Department for reports of excessive force and mistreatment of homeless people. The investigation is still ongoing.
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“One of the highest priorities of the Civil Rights Division is to ensure that every person in this country benefits from policing that is lawful, effective, transparent, and free from discrimination,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said at the time. “Police officers across the country must use their authority in a manner that adheres to the Constitution, complies with federal civil rights laws, and respects human dignity.”
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