Phoenix, AZ — Last week, Arizona State Senator John Kavanagh introduced Senate Bill 1054, which would make it effectively illegal to film police. Under the terms of the bill, filming police would only be legal under very specific circumstances, and would require citizens to stop filming if a police officer orders them to.
The bill also specifies that it would be illegal to film a police officer from a distance of less than 20 feet. These requirements give police the power to easily prevent people from filming them if they are engaging in activities that they don’t want reaching the public.
If a police officer wants someone to stop filming them, all that they have to do is tell the person to stop, or chase after the person and reach an area within 20 feet of them. At that point, it would be illegal for the person to continue filming, and it would also be illegal for them to put more distance between themselves and the officer, because they could be charged with “resisting arrest” or a similar infraction. The 20-foot distance may be specified, but it is more or less irrelevant because there is a clause in the bill that allows an officer to “determine” if the person should stop filming.
According to the fine print of the bill:
A. 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. IF THE LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITY IS OCCURRING IN AN ENCLOSED STRUCTURE THAT IS ON PRIVATE PROPERTY, A PERSON WHO IS AUTHORIZED TO BE ON THE PRIVATE PROPERTY MAY MAKE A VIDEO RECORDING OF THE ACTIVITY FROM AN ADJACENT ROOM OR AREA THAT IS LESS THAN TWENTY FEET AWAY FROM WHERE THE ACTIVITY IS OCCURRING, UNLESS A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER DETERMINES THAT THE PERSON IS INTERFERING IN THE LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITY OR THAT IT IS NOT SAFE TO BE IN THE AREA AND ORDERS THE PERSON TO STOP RECORDING
B. THIS SECTION DOES NOT ESTABLISH A RIGHT OR AUTHORIZE ANY PERSON TO MAKE A VIDEO RECORDING OF LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITY.
C. A VIOLATION OF THIS SECTION IS A PETTY OFFENSE, EXCEPT THAT IF THE PERSON FAILS TO COMPLY WITH A VERBAL WARNING OF A VIOLATION OF THIS SECTION OR HAS PREVIOUSLY BEEN CONVICTED OF A VIOLATION OF THIS SECTION, IT IS A CLASS 3 MISDEMEANOR.
Although the Supreme Court has continued to uphold the right to film police, First Amendment violations seem to be on the increase as cameras become more commonplace. Police chiefs and police unions across the country have been unanimously opposed to citizens filming police, and have blamed YouTube for everything from rising crime rates to terrorism. In fact, police have begun using the term “YouTube effect” to describe the growing mistrust of law enforcement.
However, cameras are simply capturing the reality of police encounters, and showing how officers actually behave when they interact with people.
Had a camera not been rolling when officer Michael Slager murdered Walter Scott by shooting him in the back multiple times as he ran, Slager would still be on the street and Scott would have been painted as a criminal.
This is why cops don’t want to be filmed.
Last year, Texas Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas), proposed HB 2918, which would have turned private citizens who film police into criminals. When the internet reacted, Villalba was exposed for the tyrant that he is and the bill was killed.
Please share this article with everyone so that we can expose this tyrant who would remove freedom of speech as well as the only effective tool the citizens have for holding police accountable.
Watch Officer Michael Slager fatally shoot a man from behind:
We encourage you to contact the senator to voice your concern/displeasure with this proposal