Arizona House passes a GOP bill guaranteed to please those who hate the police
The people who distrust the police, who try to discredit the police, who would like to defund the police, got a big boost from an unexpected source this week – Arizona House Republicans.
On a party-line vote, Republicans passed House Bill 2319, a piece of legislation that is guaranteed to make law enforcement look bad and, should it actually become law, is guaranteed to be tossed by the courts on constitutional grounds.
The bill would make it a crime to film an officer in the middle of a “law enforcement activity” without the officer’s permission or from within 8 feet of where the activity is occurring.
In other words, it doesn’t matter if you’re not interfering with the police. They can arrest you simply for filming.
Filming a murder could be a crime?
As attorney Dan Barr, an expert in media and First Amendment law, told The Arizona Mirror, such a law “would make the recording of the murder of George Floyd illegal.”
So, it will never pass constitutional muster.
The bill was sponsored by Republican state Rep. John Kavanagh, who spent his early years in law enforcement in New York and New Jersey.
I’d guess that Kavanaugh thought something like this bill would provide officers with cover. It does just the opposite. It exposes them to suspicion.
The single biggest tool law enforcement has is public trust.
HB 2319 makes it look as if police have something to hide, when the vast majority of officers do not. Just the opposite.
HB 2319 fosters suspicion instead of trust
Kavanagh’s bill says if a person filming doesn’t comply with an officer’s demand to stop shooting video, or if that person has been convicted of doing so previously, they’d be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.
Which could get them a month in the slammer.
Suggesting that officers cannot be filmed performing their duty is saying, essentially, that they can’t be trusted. It would foster suspicion. Erode public confidence. It is the very last thing the police need these days, and just the opposite of what most departments are trying to do by equipping officers with body cameras.
The primary job of such devices is not to protect the public, but to protect the police. To offer some transparency into what it is like for the men and women in law enforcement who put their lives on the line for us each day.
And if a camera also catches a renegade officer doing the wrong thing that, too, is good. Every profession has bad actors. Those who operate with honor and integrity want them to be exposed.
GOP lawmakers bolstered those who hate police
Attorney Barr told the Mirror, “Courts have upheld that people have a constitutional right to videotape police activity, and now to say that it is illegal is just idiotic.”
The bill passed out of the House on a party-line vote, Republicans for it, Democrats against.
Over the many years I’ve lived in Arizona I’ve had many professional interactions with the police. I’ve gone to too many funerals of fallen officers, including one for a good and gracious man who had once been assigned to patrol my neighborhood after some serious threats.
Just about the worst thing elected officials could do to the police is to make it look as if they have something to hide.
So, naturally, that is exactly what the Republicans who control the Arizona House did.
They passed a clearly unconstitutional bill, one that doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being enforced, with the idea that they are helping law enforcement. When, of course, they’re doing just the opposite.
Perhaps because all they really want is to look like they’re helping law enforcement.
For which the people who distrust the police, who try to discredit the police, who would like to defund the police, are most grateful.
Reach Montini at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona House passes GOP bill tailor made for those who hate police