Arizona Senator introduces bill to restrict video recording of police activity

Arizona State Senator John Kavanagh introduced a bill which would make it illegal to make a video recording of law enforcement activity within 20 feet without the officers' permission.

Even on private property, according to the bill, police can order any occupants to cease recording should the police believe that the recording is interfering with law enforcement activity or is unsafe. Kavanagh claims that the bill would still allow people to record police activity as long as they are at a reasonable distance so that the person recording would not get hurt or distract the police officers. Critics of the bill say that the bill is not necessary since police can already arrest anyone who interferes with their activities and also courts have upheld recording police in public as a First Amendment right.
The entire bill, SB 1054, is not that long and the text can be found here. For some reason, one part specifically mentions video recording of the handling of an emotionally disturbed person:IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR A PERSON TO KNOWINGLY MAKE A VIDEO RECORDING OF LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITY, INCLUDING THE HANDLING OF AN EMOTIONALLY DISTURBED PERSON, IF THE PERSON MAKING THE VIDEO RECORDING DOES NOT HAVE THE PERMISSION OF A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER AND IS WITHIN TWENTY FEET OF WHERE THE LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITY IS OCCURRING.The bill also has a section that indicates the provisions do not establish a right or authorize any person to make a video recording of any law enforcement activity.
Video recordings of law enforcement activity have often played a key role when police activities resulting in death are disputed. In November of 2014 a dashboard video showed officer Jason Van Dyke shooting a black 17-year old, Laquan McDonald, 16 times leading to an investigation by the Chicago Police Department. The release of the video showed the official police department account was not correct. There were several protests and eventually Van Dyke was charged with murder.
Video recording also played a role in the indictment of six police officers last May on charges that included murder and manslaughter over the death of Freddie Gray while in custody during December of 2014.

In December 2014 the Department of Justice announced that it would launch a civil rights investigation into the death of Eric Garner while in police custody. the choke hold which may have caused his death is shown on video tape captured during his arrest.

Some police forces now have mounted video cameras as part of their equipment to tape interactions when they are arresting people. The Toronto police have a pilot project that started last May in which 100 officers will use the cameras.



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