The law states that witnesses to a law enforcement activity cannot make a recording if they know or reasonably should know that such an activity is occurring and if an officer has given them a verbal warning that they are not allowed to record within 8 feet.
A law enforcement activity is defined as questioning a “suspicious” person, conducting an arrest, issuing a summons or enforcing the law, or handling an “emotionally disturbed or disorderly person” exhibiting “abnormal” behavior.
The law also states that someone who is the subject of a law enforcement activity and the occupants of a vehicle stopped by police may record their interactions as long as it does not interfere with “lawful police actions.”
Violating the law will be considered a misdemeanor.
The Arizona Republic reported that the law will go into effect on Sept. 24.
State Rep. John Kavanagh (R), who sponsored the legislation, argued in an op-ed that giving police a “buffer” is necessary, as some groups who are hostile to police follow officers to record police incidents. He said these people can get “dangerously close” to potentially violent encounters.
“Police officers have no way of knowing whether the person approaching is an innocent bystander or an accomplice of the person they’re arresting who might assault them,” he said. “Consequently, officers become distracted and while turning away from the subject of the encounter, the officers could be assaulted by that subject or that subject could discard evidence or even escape.”
Kavanagh said the quality of videos showing potential excessive force incidents would not be affected because of the modern sophistication of cellphone cameras, adding that a video taken from farther away would likely show more context.
Video recordings of police interactions with civilians have been critical pieces of evidence in some cases where a person was killed, like the 2020 murder of George Floyd by a now-former Minneapolis police officer.