A New Bill Restricts How and When You Can Film Cops in Arizona
Recently Rep. John Kavanagh introduced HB 2319 to the Arizona House of Representatives which would prohibit anyone from recording the police in public without permission from the officer first, with few exceptions such as if someone who is “the subject of police contact.” This would afford police a reasonable expectation of privacy in public–a right not afforded to any other group in the country. Earlier, we mediated a debate between Kavanagh and K.M. Bell of the Smart Justice Campaign Strategist for the Arizona ACLU about the bill.
Why is restricting the recording of law enforcement a good idea?
Kavanagh: “I was as cop for twenty years, I made a lot of arrests, sometimes tense situations. So i know what goes through a police officers mind when they are doing law enforcement. Everybody carries a video camera, called a cellphone, and a lot of people tape cops when they are doing encounters. Some organized groups even follow cops around and tape the encounters, and I fully can see that there is a constitutional right to do that. But I am trying to balance the person who’s filming this constitutional right to document the encounter, with safety considerations and law enforcement evidence preservation considerations of the police officer. Nobody walks up to a cop when he is questioning a suspicious person or arresting somebody and stands one or two feet away. Common sense says you’re asking for trouble. You’re either going to be mistaken for an accomplice, and the cop might turn around to attack you, or you’ll distract the cop. Even if you are perfectly innocent, if the cop is looking at you, the perpetrator might hit the cop, escape, or discard evidence. Which, by the way, happened to me on several occasions.”
Why is all that not such a good idea?
K.M. Bell starts with a supreme court case that Rep. John Kavanagh mentioned: Hill vs. Colorado. This required protesters outside of abortion clinics to be a certain distance away from the clinic. They said there are three important differences between the law that was upheld by the supreme court and the law that Kavanagh introduced. The first, that law required that you “knowingly” broke the legal distance, but with Kavanagh’s law you are still breaking the law even if you violate it unknowingly. The second, that law allowed someone to stay stationary. So if someone were to walk by you, you are not violating that law. With Kavanagh’s law, an officer can walk towards you and then you are now in violation of his law. The third, the supreme court has upheld that police are supposed to have “thicker skins” and be more resilient.