A bystander recording the death of George Floyd was an extremely instrumental part in the convictions of former officers Derek Chauvin and as of yesterday, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. Without camera phones, there would be many instances of police brutality that are never exposed.
If Arizona GOP representatives have their way, this form of accountability will soon be invalid. According to Newsweek, House Bill 2319 would make it illegal for members of the public to be within 8 feet of an officer without their consent to record. It would also result in a misdemeanor charge with repeated violations.
Representative and Port Authority of New York police officer John Kavanagh, sponsored the bill because “the increased presence of cameras is creating dangerous situations for police.” Kavanaugh also mentioned “cameras may cause police to look over their shoulder, giving a suspect the opportunity to assault the officer or destroy evidence.”
Senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Arizona, Jared Keenan pushed back on the bill in a tweet:
“When we should be holding police accountable, the AZ House of Representatives just passed a bill to make that even more difficult,” Jared Keenan, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Arizona, said in a tweet following the bill’s passage. “#HB2319 criminalizes filming police in public in some instances-chilling the use of the public’s most effective tool against police misconduct.”
The bill passed the Arizona House in a 31-28 vote Wednesday. Kavanagh noted to Newsweek the bill was altered to bring it in line with court precedence. The Supreme Court upheld the right for citizens to record police interactions under the first amendment.
House Bill 2319 originally called for a 15-foot buffer–it has been reduced to 8 feet. People would still be able to record police during their own encounter with law enforcement as long as they’re not being frisked or handcuffed. Exceptions are made for enclosed structures and private property, in addition to allowing people in a vehicle to film a police interaction with the driver.
“These are reasonable concessions that balance the right of people to videotape the police with the safety of police officers who could be subjected to an attack by somebody coming up too close to them in an enforcement encounter or be distracted by such a person, which would allow suspects to attack the officer or destroy or discard evidence,” Kavanagh said.
“So people can stay back, not to distract or threaten the cop by their presence, but still film which with today’s cameras and zoom features on the phone is really easy to do,” he said.
Kenan followed up with Newsweek stating “the ability to record police interactions has become “an important tool to ensure police accountability and transparency that’s been upheld by federal courts.”