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Arizona House panel passes bill that would make it harder to record police

The GOP-led Legislature will soon vote on the bill that would prohibit people from recording police activity within 8 feet of an officer.


An Arizona bill that would drastically curb people’s right to record police officers moved one step closer to becoming law this week, after its House Appropriations Committee approved the measure with slight adjustments Monday.  

If the bill is signed into law, it will be a disturbing concession to Arizona police, including the Phoenix Police Department, which is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for its use of force against protesters and people who are homeless. 

Kavanagh’s law would help obscure Arizona’s police from view at a time when they’re facing deserved scrutiny.

The law would prohibit people from filming within 8 feet while a police officer is interacting with someone. The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. John Kavanagh, originally sought to make the requirement 15 feet. Kavanagh, who was a police officer in New York for decades before becoming an Arizona lawmaker, told The Associated Press he changed the distance so it would  match the constitutionally protected buffer zones some abortion providers put in place to protect abortion seekers from unruly protesters. 

“I think this fully conforms with constitutionality, and weighs officer safety with the citizens’ right, the public’s right, to see law enforcement officers in action,” he said.

To be clear, he’s comparing police who serve the public and might reasonably be filmed by private citizens to women undergoing legal abortions, who are often accosted by right-wing maniacs.  

The Phoenix Police Department has a uniquely horrid civil rights record that has gained attention as of late. In recent years, it has posted record numbers of police shootings. And just last year, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams was suspended for one day after an investigation found her department falsely classified some local anti-police protesters as a gang

Kavanagh’s law would help obscure Arizona’s police from view at a time when they’re facing deserved scrutiny. Whereas vigilant bystanders were able to capture police killings of Eric Garner and George Floyd on tape, the Republican-led state House is doing its part to prevent similar transparency in Arizona.