Frequent readers of the Free Thought Project know that filming the cops is not a crime. Despite this being a widely known provision — held up with multiple court precedents — cops continue to violate the First Amendment protected right of citizens to film the police. Last month, the Arizona House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would criminalize filming cops on the job, dealing a massive blow to First Amendment rights. And this month, the Senate passed it.
It now moves to Governor Doug Ducey’s desk for signature, where it will become law.
Republican Representative John Kavanaugh, who is a former police officer, is the lead sponsor of the legislation. According to the bill, it is illegal “for a person to knowingly make a video recording of law enforcement activity, including the handling of an emotionally disturbed person, if the person does not have the permission of the law enforcement officer” and is within 8 feet of the cop.
Kavanaugh originally stipulated a 15 foot radius, however it was later amended after multiple objections. But for many, this is still too far.
As Valera Voce, points out, the law also classifies unlawful video recording of law enforcement activity as a petty offense, unless a person fails to comply with a verbal warning of a violation or has been previously convicted of a violation in which case an offense is a class 3 misdemeanor. A class 3 misdemeanor comes with a minimum of 30 days in jail. Finally, the bill explicitly declares that it “does not establish a right, or authorize any person, to make a video recording of a law enforcement officer.”
“It’s crazy thinking about that for a second. The video that led to the criminal conviction of the police officer who killed George Floyd would itself be a criminal act. And that makes no sense whatsoever,” attorney Dan Barr told FOX 10.
“We believe that this bill stacks the deck against the public check on officer misconduct,” Timothy Sparling, a lawyer and legislative advocate for Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week. Sparling argued that the bill leaves too much up to the discretion of the officers. “When officers have such wide discretion to determine, say, what is lawful conduct or what is unlawful conduct on the ground and that is not properly defined … it’s ultimately up to whatever the officer wants it to be,” Sparling said.