Arizona Legislators Want To Make It Illegal For People To Record Cops From Whatever Cops Decide Is ‘8 Feet Away’

from the garbage-lawmakers-protecting-garbage-cops dept

It’s pretty much understood that filming police is protected by the First Amendment. Even in jurisdictions where the highest courts have yet to hand down a definitive decision, police departments have made it clear to officers that filming cops isn’t a crime. This has followed years of jurisprudence and laws being repealed/rewritten to reflect this position — something that has, years after it became necessary, prevented police from abusing wiretapping laws to arrest people for “nonconsensual” recordings of officers performing their public duties in public.

The Supreme Court has yet to issue a bright line ruling on an issue that has been the subject of tons of litigation since the advent of smartphones. Despite this, it’s been assumed by most of the nation that preventing people from recording public employees is, at the very least, going to subject public agencies to expensive litigation.

While they can’t outlaw filming for fear of constitutional challenges and judges deciding who gets to film what from where, legislators are attempting to restrict filming of cops by erecting arbitrary barriers that will make it more difficult to engage in this protected act and make it easier for cops to arrest people for filming them.

This op-ed by Elvia Diaz of the Arizona Republic makes it clear what’s at stake as state legislators push for limits on the filming of law enforcement officers.

Nobody could ever forget police officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

That image will forever be etched on our minds thanks to a bystander who filmed the slow killing, which later sparked racial protests across the nation and led to a reckoning on police brutality in America.

In Arizona, Rep. John Kavanagh and fellow lawmakers backing his House Bill 2319 want to make sure that never happens again.

Diaz makes an extremely valid point. Perhaps the only reason Officer Derek Chauvin is now a former officer and a current convicted murderer is because a bystander filmed the murder of George Floyd, from a distance indiscernible from the bright line proposed by legislators who are sorely in need of being voted out of office.

HB 2319, which already passed the House and got the green light from a Senate panel this week, would criminalize filming cops on the job. Penalties would include up to 30 days in jail.

It specifically prohibits a person from making a video recording within 8 feet of the officer without that officer’s permission.

First off, very few cops are going to give you “permission” to record, no matter what distance you are from them.

Second, you don’t need their fucking permission.

Third, how are cops going to measure out this legislated eight feet? Will they be issued periodically calibrated versions of the old ten-foot pole that conform with the new eight-foot mandate? Or will they just guestimate and decide anyone close enough to record anything clearly has violated the law?

What if the officer decides to move towards the person doing the filming? Does that move by the officer make the filming illegal now that the gap between the filmer and the filmed is less than eight feet?

All perfectly good and obvious questions. The problem is that those proposing the bill have no answers. Really. What the fuck is this even supposed to mean?

The Fountain Hills Republican responded to concerns about officers moving closer to people filming by saying that if they’re acting lawfully and standing still, there’s no reason for the officers to move towards them because they’re not considered suspicious. 

Even cops would laugh at this assertion. And they’re on the side of the legislators that are helping shield them accountability.

This 8-foot rule is nonsensical. It’s as nonsensical as the assertion recently made by New York City’s new mayor, Eric Adams. Adams, a former police officer, is giving the NYPD and its terrible unions what they want: “reforms” that restrict how the public interacts with police officers, rather than vice versa.

Adams says the public is obliged to stay the hell away from officers when they’re performing their public duties in public. If you can’t clearly record what’s happening from whatever this suggested distance is, maybe buy yourself a new phone.

“If your iPhone can’t catch that picture with you being at a safe distance, then you need to upgrade your iPhone,” Adams declared. “Stop being on top of my police officers while they’re carrying out their jobs.”

“That is not acceptable and it won’t be tolerated,” he added, letting the implied threat of retribution against bystanders with insufficient smartphones hang, without further clarification. 

Fortunately, this new, incredibly vague standard has yet to be codified by the city council. But maybe it will be? Who knows? Mayor Adams seems intent on protecting officers from accountability so it’s likely something as equally stupid as the bill sitting in the Arizona state senate will cross his desk at some point in the near future.

It’s true that the government can place time and place restrictions on First Amendment activity. But an arbitrary eight-foot rule ain’t it. Hopefully, this will dead end before it hits the Arizona governor’s desk. Otherwise, the public will be forced to defend a stupid law against constitutional challenges raised by others on the public’s behalf.

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Comments on “Arizona Legislators Want To Make It Illegal For People To Record Cops From Whatever Cops Decide Is ‘8 Feet Away’”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

When the problem to be solved is not guilt but proof of it

It’s such a telling response when the reaction to the public recording a murderous cop and getting them found guilty for said murder is not to try to reduce the number of killer cops but to make it harder for the public to create another damning video.

As for how cops will define what counts as ‘eight feet’ I imagine it will be ‘if you’re close enough to clearly see what’s happening then you must be too close’, with of course any disagreements weighted in the police’s favor since they never lie.

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Ben Jones says:

“If your iPhone can’t catch that picture with you being at a safe distance, then you need to upgrade your iPhone,” Adams declared.

Well, if your cops can’t catch that crim legally with someone pointing a camera at them, then maybe you need to upgrade your cops.
Might I suggest upgrading to ones with the competence feature enabled, and the violence flaw patched?

Anonymous Coward says:


Sorry, the competence feature is incompatible with a large part of our installed cop base. And our studies have shown that the violence patch is only partially effective at best. Worse, despite daily over-the-air updates to our officers, we find that only a small number of such updates remain installed more than a few hours.

While we are researching new methods for increasing update persistence, our budget does not permit us to retire the most defective models. The lawyers in our remediation department have been quite effective, though, so we retain hope.

That One Guy (profile) says:


Joy, markdown isn’t working, well hopefully this will be understandable anyway.

>The Fountain Hills Republican responded to concerns about officers moving closer to people filming by saying that **if they’re acting lawfully and standing still, there’s no reason for the officers to move towards them because they’re not considered suspicious**.

Oh they’re already way ahead of you on that and have pre-poisoned the well by framing it such that if you’re not ‘suspicious’ police wouldn’t need to approach you so if they *do* clearly you’re doing *something* wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:


If the cop is more that 16 foot from his mates, you can stand between them.Also, you can stay 8 feet away from 2 cops at the same time, an 8 foot circle around the one of interest, whale staying 8 foot away from the other.

Also if all but one cop are trying to keep people away from the arrest, it is going to be harder to use an imm3ediate danger defense, as his mates did not see enough danger to come to his assistance.

Anonymous Coward says:

That will just make more people put their phoens on “insame cop proof mode”, where the phone is not only encypted, but have a “booby trap” mode where if there are too many atempts to enter the right password, the phone wipes itself and resets, meaning anything that they might use ae evidence is GONE.

Using this mode does break any laws anywhere in Canaxca, Mexico, or the USA.

Using this mode is a good idea, because you don’t know what may be one your phone where they could try and muscle you into a plea agreement, plead to this or we will charge you with that.

I do that when travelling through any asset forfeiture staes, so that if mmy phone ever is seized, they will never be able access the contents.

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