The Arizona legislative cycle just started, and a Republican legislator wants to make it illegal for people to record the police with limited exceptions. The AZ Mirror reported Rep. John Kavanagh, a former Port Authority officer in New York and New Jersey allegedly introduced the bill to improve public safety.
Proposed HB 2319 would make it illegal for individuals to record police officers without their permission and within 15 feet of the officer carrying out an arrest or other duty. The bill will also create a class III misdemeanor if a person disregards an officer’s verbal command regarding recording.
“Taking photographs, video, and audio in public spaces is a constitutional right — and that includes law enforcement officials carrying out their duties,” tweeted the ACLU of Arizona.
This isn’t the first time Kavauanah has attempted to pass such a bill, introducing similar legislation in 2016. He told the outlet bystanders recording police officers is a “distraction.” (Read the full AZ Mirror story here).
But in many instances, bystanders recording police has helped prove the many issues and community concerns about police officers. Often without video footage, investigators accept the police’s version of events as an automatic fact.
In October 2021, the Washington Post covered a report examining police killings 1980-2019. According to the report, Arizona had one of the highest rates of police killings, according to a study. CNBC cited two reports showing that Arizona ranked the highest in the country in shootings by U.S. Marshall task forces, and officers shoot someone every five days on average in the state.
The legislation also comes during a Department of Justice pattern and practice investigation into the Phoenix police department. While video of police violence and other forms of misconduct does not guarantee officers will be charged or even convicted, the videos are often the clearest evidence available to families, loved ones, communities, and local officials.
Derrick Chauvin would have never been charged for the murder of George Floyd if this law had been in effect in Minnesota. The initial police report left out significant details, shielding Chauvin from culpability.
Bystander video also helped in the case of Michael Slager, the former police officer who killed Walter Scott. Slager also lied about what transpired leading up to the shooting, claiming Walter tried to take his weapon when he was shot in the back.