The sponsor of the bill, Arizona state representative John Kavanagh, wrote in USA Today that the buffer is important to protect law enforcement officers from being assaulted. Kavanagh claimed “there’s no reason” to approach any closer, predicting tragic outcomes for all involved. Such an approach is unreasonable, unnecessary, and unsafe, and should be made illegal. Kavanagh points out concerns from Tucson police officers who regularly experience bystanders recording them from just 1 to 2 feet behind, even as they’re attempting to apprehend a suspect. In such a situation, officers have no real way of knowing if the bystander is an accomplice or just a concerned citizen.
These days, police actions can be considerably more transparent than in the past. Thanks to our iPhones, almost everyone has an excellent camcorder in their back pocket. However, iPhone owners in Arizona will now be prohibited from recording the police up close under a new rule. How Close Bystanders Can Be When Recording Police Activity is Now Limited by New Arizona Law. The new law requires anyone filming police activities in Arizona to keep their distance. It is required that anyone filming what the police are doing remain at least eight feet away. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to iPhone users.
Kavanagh says he took the arguments of critics of the bill into account during its legislative process. He amended the bill several times to accommodate such feedback. For example, subjects of police action can record their own interaction even at close range under the final passed bill. The only exception here is when officers are searching or handcuffing the subject.
For those who violate the law even after police have warned them to back off, misdemeanor charges await. The penalty for breaking this law could include fines of up to $500, jail time of up to 30 days, or probation of up to a year. The lawmaker also acknowledges that it is a Constitutional right to record police actions. However, much like the old adage that you can’t shout “Fire” in a crowded theater, the United States Supreme Court has ruled such a right is subject to some limits.
Furthermore, attorneys suggested the original version of the bill’s broad application to all police encounters might be unconstitutional. In response, lawmakers amended the law to apply only during police-citizen encounters where exist the potential for violence. This would include arrests, serving a summons, questioning suspects or handling those with emotional disturbances.