Judge Grants ACLU Request To Block AZ Law Limiting Camera Use Near Police

Along with the ubiquity of smartphone cameras has come a sharp spike in videos depicting interactions between police officers and citizens.

While these recordings have often served to document misdeeds by law enforcement or defend officers against false accusations, a growing number of lawmakers are concerned that the presence of cameras could negatively interfere with police work — at least in certain situations.

As a result, Arizona legislators approved a measure that would prohibit the use of cameras to record law enforcement officers from a distance of less than eight feet after authorities already issued a warning to stop.

The American Civil Liberties Union and a group of media outlets expressed their opposition to the new law, however, and requested an injunction in court. This week, U.S. District Judge John J. Tuchi granted the request, which blocked the law just days before it was set to go into effect.

A social media statement by the ACLU of Arizona celebrated the court victory and denounced the law as “a blatant attempt to prohibit people from exercising their constitutional right to record police in public.”

Specifically, the organization took issue with a provision that could result in reporters facing fines and jail time for getting too close to police officers while covering a protest or other chaotic scene.

In his order, Tuchi gave supporters of the law seven days to present arguments in favor of implementing it. Thus far, officials including state Attorney General Mark Brnovich have offered no sign that they intend to press the matter any further.

That clearly upset many supporters of the measure, including GOP state Rep. John Kavanaugh, who said he assumed “that the attorney general would do his job as the state’s attorney and defend a law passed by the state.”

Kavanaugh, a former police officer who sponsored the bill in the state House, said that his chamber will be working with the Arizona Senate in a bid to breathe new life into the law, adding that “there’s also the possibility of some outside group possibly stepping up.”

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed the measure into law in July, at which time Kavanaugh celebrated the move as one that “promotes everybody’s safety yet still allows people to reasonably videotape police activity as is their right.”