UPDATE: ACLU Arizona Files Lawsuit Against State’s Ban on Recording Police
HB 2319 makes it a crime to record police officers within eight feet of law enforcement activity which the ACLU says violates the First Amendment.
On Friday, a federal judge blocked the enforcement of a new Arizona law restricting how the public and journalists can film police, according to Yahoo News. U.S. District Judge John Tuchi issued a preliminary junction that stops the law from being enforced when it is set to take effect on Sept. 24.
ORIGINAL POST 8/26/22
PHOENIX – The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and a group of 10 media organizations, represented by the ACLU and law firm Ballard Spahr, respectively, filed a lawsuit against the state of Arizona Tuesday challenging HB 2319, a law that makes it a crime to record police officers within eight feet of law enforcement activity.
The suit challenges the law as a violation of the First Amendment and seeks to stop HB 2319 from going into effect. According to the plaintiffs, the constitutional right to record police engaged in official duties is one of the public’s most effective accountability tools against police wrongdoing.
“Video recording of police encounters and other law enforcement activity in public is one of the few ways community members and the media can hold police accountable for misconduct,” reads a press release from ACLU. “Over the last decade, the simple act of recording police misconduct has raised public awareness about police brutality and ignited movements to demand reform across the country. Arizona’s HB 2319 would directly suppress free speech rights, while also limiting public accountability and effective protest of government actions.”
Under Arizona’s law, a person commits a crime if they film an officer engaged in law enforcement activity within eight feet if they have been warned to stop. The plaintiffs say this vests too much power in individual officers to stop someone from recording them. It also makes it nearly impossible to record police in large protests where protesters may walk within eight feet of a line of police monitoring the protest from all sides, the plaintiffs continue.
“We have a right to hold police officers accountable by recording their activities in public,” said Esha Bhandari, deputy director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “Arizona’s law will prevent people from engaging in recording that doesn’t interfere with police activity, and it will suppress the reporting and advocacy that results from video evidence of police misconduct. The First Amendment does not permit that outcome.”
“We fear that, rather than acting as a shield to ensure ‘officer safety,’ this law will serve as a sword to abridge the ‘clearly established’ First Amendment right to video record police officers performing their official duties in public,” echoed National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher. “We hope the court will agree and strike down this law as unconstitutional.”
The plaintiffs in this case, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, include the ACLU of Arizona, Phoenix Newspapers, Inc., Gray Television, Scripps Media, KPNX (12 News), Fox Television Stations, NBCUniversal Media (Telemundo Arizona/KTAZ), Arizona Broadcasters Association, States Newsroom (AZ Mirror), Arizona Newspapers Association, and the National Press Photographers Association.