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Arizona senate bill introduced to prohibit recording of law enforcement activity

[JURIST] Arizona State Senator John Kavanagh introduced Senate Bill 1054 [text, PDF] on Thursday, which if passed would make it illegal to make a video recording of law enforcement activity within 20 feet without the officer's permission. The bill would also authorize police officers to order occupants of private property to stop recording if they believe the recording interferes with law enforcement activity or is unsafe. Kavanagh states [Arizona Republic report] the law still allows people to record police activity from a reasonable distance and is necessary to keep people from distracting arresting officers or getting close enough that they might get hurt. However, critics of the law say it is unnecessary because police officers can already arrest anyone interfering with their activities and courts have upheld a First Amendment right to record police in public.

Video recordings of law enforcement activities have caused much controversy in recent years, providing more details on disputed accounts of deaths at the hands of police enforcement. In November, a 2014 squad car dashboard video showing officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times was released, leading the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] to announce [JURIST report] in December that it will be opening a full investigation into the Chicago Police Department. Video recordings also led to the indictment [JURIST report] of six police officers in May, on charges including murder and manslaughter, over the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray while he was in police custody. In December 2014, the DOJ announced plans to launch a civil rights investigation [JURIST report] into the death of Eric Garner, whose death at the hands of police officers was also caught on tape. Garner was killed in July 2014 after being placed in a choke hold by a white New York City police officer during an arrest.

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