The House Bill 2918 introduced by Texas Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) would make private citizens photographing or recording the police within 25 feet of them a class B misdemeanor, and those who are armed would not be able to stand recording within 100 feet of an officer.
Rep. Villalba’s stated intent–“wanting people to stand back a little bit so as not to interfere with law enforcement”–is facile at best and deceptive at worst. Chapter 38 of the Texas Penal Code already prohibits people from interfering with police officers who are performing their job. The proposed bill doesn’t require the State to show any actual interference with a police officer; instead, it would prohibit the act of filming/photographing/documenting within 25 feet, regardless of any intent to interfere or actual interference.
The bill isn’t about wanting people to stand back a little bit. Instead, this bill helps the police avoid accountability. We need the police to be accountable to secure our personal liberty, and filming promotes police accountability. This bill reduces accountability and would have a chilling effect on citizens who see police going too far. Despite Rep. Villalba’s protestations, this bill would reduce filming on a de facto basis.
Supporters of more intrusive searches contend upstanding citizens shouldn’t have to worry about the government intruding into our lives as long as the citizens aren’t doing anything illicit. Shouldn’t the flip side be true for the police? If police officers aren’t doing anything wrong while walking the beat, and if filming in and of itself doesn’t interfere with the police, why should the presence of a camera make any sort of difference?
I hope this ill-conceived bill dies a quick death.