PHOENIX — Arizona lawmakers are likely to see a series of proposals from Republicans and Democrats this session prompted by a series of police shootings across the nation that have brought added scrutiny to police actions.
A Democratic state lawmaker on Wednesday introduced legislation that would require police officers statewide to wear body cameras that record interactions with the public. Rep. Reginald Bolding of Phoenix also is sponsoring legislation that would require fatal police shootings to be investigated by an outside police agency.
House Bill 2511 is the body camera bill and House Bill 2512 requires the outside investigation.
“These two bills provide mutual protection for both community members and also law enforcement officers,” Bolding said.
Republican Sen. John Kavanagh is considering legislation limiting the release of video captured by police cameras. Kavanagh says the increasing use of body cameras raises serious privacy concerns for both police and the public. His proposal would limit when officers could turn on their camera to times when they’re actually interacting with potential suspects and define the situations in which video could become public without a court order.
Kavanaugh said interactions that lead to an arrest would not require a court order to be released.
“While these body cameras have been shown in preliminary studies to reduce police-citizen complaints and even the use of force, they also pose a very grave threat to the privacy rights of not only police but also citizens,” Kavanagh said. “And I’m particularly alarmed at the prospect of turning every police officer in the state of Arizona into an unpaid cameraman for police TV reality shows or Internet sites that exist merely to embarrass people.”
Law enforcement groups, meanwhile, are pushing a proposal that would keep the names of officers involved in a shooting confidential for 90 days after the shooting. They cite concern for the safety of officers whose names are immediately released.
The Arizona Police Association and the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association are crafting the legislation, which has not yet been introduced.
Michael Williams, a lobbyist for the associations, cited protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere following the fatal shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers. Withholding the name of the officer for his or her safety and the safety of an officer’s family is paramount, he said.
“There would be a certain period of time when the officer’s name would not be released, so especially if it’s an emotionally charged issue, there’d be a little cooling-off period,” Williams told the Arizona Capitol Times.
Williams has approached two Republican senators about carrying the legislation.
Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, said he’s waiting to determine the merits of the bill until he’s shown draft language.
“In principle, I hear it and I think there’s certainly some validity to the reasoning behind it, but I want to make sure that it’s vetted properly, too,” Smith told the Capitol Times.
Prospects for the Democrat-backed legislation to pass are uncertain because Republicans control both the House and Senate. Kavanagh, for one, doesn’t support Bolding’s proposals and doubts other Republicans would back them.
He said having an outside police agency investigate police shootings “presumes the agency is corrupt and is going to cover it up.”