A Republican state lawmaker wants to prohibit people from video recording law enforcement agents up-close without their permission.
The bill proposed by by state Sen. John Kavanagh would make it a crime to film cops without their consent within 20 feet of "law enforcement activity," according to a report by the Arizona Capitol Times. A first violation could mean $300 in fines, and any more than that could be punishable with up to six months in jail.
Daniel Pochoda with the American Civil Liberties Union told the Times that SB 1054 is a violation of First Amendment rights. And an attorney who works on media issues, Daniel Barr, questioned whether the state even needs such prohibition.
Kavanagh, who is a retired police officer, says he's just trying to protect the safety of law enforcement agents.
He said people are free to stand 21 feet away. And he rejected contentions that someone standing that far back might not be able to record important details, like whether someone was reaching for a gun or a cell phone.According to the Times, Kavanagh says he is open to amending the bill at the time of a hearing to address any concerns.
“Most cameras have great resolution where you don’t really lose anything when you’re 20 feet away,” Kavanagh argued. “At 20 feet you can pretty much pick up small objects.”
What’s behind the measure, he said, is the safety of police officers who may be doing anything from questioning a suspicious person to making an arrest.
"Having one or more persons suddenly walking up behind and around them with cameras is a distraction,” Kavanagh said. “The officer doesn’t know if this is somebody who’s a friend of the individual he’s doing law enforcement action against or what,” he continued. “But it distracts the officer which creates a safety problem for the officer.”
“So we’re going to make it a crime?” Barr responded. “If you’re actually interfering with them in some way, interfering with his movement or something like that, I can see that you can be sanctioned for that,” he continued, saying there already are laws on the books to cover that situation. “Whether you’re filming him or not has nothing to do with it."