In era of transparency, a new Arizona law limits filming of police

FILE - Phoenix Police stand in front of police headquarters on May 30, 2020, in Phoenix, waiting for protesters marching to protest the death of George Floyd.  Arizona's governor has signed into law a measure that makes it illegal to knowly record video of police officers within 8 feet (2.5 meters) or closer without an officer's permission, spurring concerns among civil rights activists about transparency and accountability.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Phoenix police officers stand in front of police headquarters on May 30, 2020, waiting for protesters marching after the death of George Floyd. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Arizona’s governor has signed a law that restricts how the public can video police at a time when there’s growing pressure across the US for greater law enforcement transparency.

Civil rights and media groups opposed the measure that Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed Thursday. The law makes it illegal in Arizona to knowingly video police officers 8 feet or closer without an officer’s permission.

Someone on private property with the owner’s consent can also be ordered to stop recording if a police officer finds they are interfering or the area is not safe. The offense is a misdemeanor that would likely incur a fine without jail time.

There needs to be a law that protects officers from people who “either have very poor judgment or sinister motives,” said Republican state Rep. John Kavanagh, the bill’s sponsor.

“I’m pleased that a very reasonable law that promotes the safety of police officers and those involved in police stops and bystanders has been signed into law,” Kavanagh said Friday. “It promotes everybody’s safety yet still allows people to reasonably videotape police activity as is their right.”

The move comes nearly a year after the US Department of Justice launched a widespread probe of allegations that Phoenix police abused and used excessive force against homeless people. It’s similar to other investigations opened in recent months in Minneapolis and Louisville, Ky.

The Phoenix Police Department, serving the nation’s fifth-largest city, has been criticized in recent years for its use of force, which disproportionately affects Black and Native American residents.

The law has left opponents like KM Bell, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of

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