Arizona House bill seeks to impose limits on taking video of police
PHOENIX – A proposed Arizona House bill to outlaw close-up video recordings of police actions is meant to protect officers and civilians alike, said its sponsor.
State Rep. John Kavanagh said HB 2319 would require recording of police actions in public take place 15 feet away from the scene. Video recording closer than 15 feet would require officer permission.
“I’m simply trying to find a reasonable compromise that will let people still film but not get so close that they’re going to cause … problems,” Kavanagh told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday.
The American Civil Liberties Union has said taking photos and videos of what is in plain sight, including police and other government officials performing their duties, in public spaces is a constitutional right.
The Republican legislator, whose district includes Fountain Hills and most of Scottsdale, spent 20 years on the Port Authority Police Department of New York and New Jersey.
“When I was a cop, if I was arresting somebody and somebody suddenly came up within feet behind me, I don’t know if it’s another offender, a friend of the person I’m arresting, who is going to attack me.
“Or I might just turn around to see what’s going on and in doing that, the person I’m arresting punches me, tries to escape or destroys evidence.”
Kavanagh said indoor locations will be an exception to the 15-foot recording limit, if the person recording is legally allowed to be there.
He also said he planned to amend the bill to allow the person being arrested to record the encounter.
“Assuming he’s not in the process of being handcuffed,” Kavanagh said. “That was an omission I’ll take care of, no problem. I’m certainly willing to amend the bill so I don’t run afoul of the Constitution.”
Kavanagh said he was prompted to write the bill two years ago after receiving a phone call from two officers in Tucson.
“They said, “We understand people can film in a public place but can’t we keep a decent distance so we don’t have mistakes or we’re not distracted?'” Kavanagh said.
Objections to the bill, he said, “I think is a matter of you’re stopping people from exposing brutality. First of all, these scenes are now overphotographed. Every police [officer] has a body camera, so there really is no shortage of video footage.”
Lawyers were looking over court decisions involving the issue, he said.