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Arizona HB 2319 could limit police recording

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Caitlin Claypool | The Daily Wildcat

University of Arizona Police Department headquarters.

House bill 2319 passed through the Arizona Senate Rules Committee on March 17 but still faces mixed opinions from the public.

The bill, sponsored by John Kavanaugh, R-Ariz., would prohibit bystanders from recording police interactions at a minimum distance of fifteen feet. Those in violation of the law could be charged with a petty offense or a class three misdemeanor (if the person fails to comply with the officer or has been convicted of a prior offense), according to the bill's wording. 

“This [bill] is about preventing violence and misunderstandings, preventing the destruction of evidence and protecting police officers from harm,” Kavanaugh said in his bill presentation during the Senate Judiciary meeting.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has been very open about its opposition to HB 2319.

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Amanda Mollindo, ACLU Smart Justice communication strategist, said under the first amendment, each law must meet three requirements. These requirements are that the law “be justified without reference, must be narrowly tailored to serve a specific government interest and must leave open, ample alternative channels for communication of the information,” Mollindo said. 

HB 2319 does not meet these requirements, according to the ACLU AZ. 

“An officer can apply this eight feet restriction in any circumstance,” Mollindo said. 

“A good example is: say you are in a hostile protest situation. You are recording a scene, there are a lot of people and there may be a few hostile participants interacting with police. That, in itself, makes it a hostile situation where this bill would kick in … . You are not aware of what’s going on next to you, … and you are in that 8-foot buffer zone, and now, you are getting accused of violating the law,” Mollindo said.

University of Arizona Police Department Officer Rene Hernandez from the community engagement unit stated that the main goal for officers is to make sure everyone at the crime scene is safe, including for officers, victims, arrestees and bystanders.

“We normally tell people: ‘this is your right to record, all we ask is that you stay a safe distance away and don’t interfere with our investigation,'” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said he understands that with arresting individuals comes the power to potentially take away their rights, upon conviction. He said he wishes to prevent mistakes that could be made “because an officer was more worried about people recording or trying to keep them away from the scene,” he said.

If this bill were enacted into law, it would be analyzed by UAPD’s legal advisor who would then advise the officers on how to implement it within the department, according to Hernandez.

HB 2319 passed through the Senate with a vote of five ayes and three nays. Next, it will be sent to the Senate Rules Attorney to determine the bill’s constitutionality.


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