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 This has followed years of jurisprudence and laws being repealed/rewritten to reflect this position — something that has, years after it became necessary, prevented police from abusing wiretapping laws to arrest people for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.