ACLU challenges ban on filming police

The group claimed that the Arizona statute violates First Amendment rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit challenging a recent Arizona law that prohibits anyone from filming police up close. The ACLU contends that the right to film police is protected by the US Constitution.

The rights organization launched a lawsuit earlier this week to invalidate the July law because it contravenes the First Amendment.

The ACLU said in a statement that the bill will "directly suppress free speech rights, while also limiting public accountability and effective protest of government actions." It added that the constitutional right to record police performing their official duties is one of the public's most effective accountability tools against police wrongdoing.

The legislation was enacted last month by Republican Governor Doug Ducey and is now scheduled to go into effect in September. Once in effect, it will make it illegal to film police from a distance of fewer than eight feet, with certain exceptions made for people in cars during traffic stops and anyone chatting to police in private locations on their property.

More than half of the US population resides in jurisdictions where courts have upheld the freedom to film law enforcement, with many considering this to be a constitutionally protected activity, according to New York University's First Amendment Watch project. Arizona is one of those states, which might give the ACLU further evidence in its most recent case.

The National Press Photographers Association, along with 23 other civil liberties and journalism organizations, wrote an open letter before the Arizona bill was passed, denouncing the measure and raising concerns about potential First Amendment violations.

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