Police on film

The bill filed by Rep. Jason Villalba strikes me as a bad, bad idea:

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.

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3 thoughts on “Police on film

  1. If you have any friends in TX’s lobby, tell them to sneak something in on if this bill passes, the police must wear cameras. Since they’re the ones wearing it, they can’t interfere with their own investigation (unless they are), and people can keep track of them doing good/bad things. Though you’d have to make the videos unaltered and available to the public. San Diego, CA’s police force recently did that when they changed the police chief.

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    • The Texas Legislature won’t order cities to use cameras. That’s a non-starter with this Legislature. The big cities of Texas have taken the lead on this issue and started various pilot programs. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has teamed up with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Houston Police Department to purchase some. I don’t think the various police departments or the City of Houston have hammered out many of the critical policy details. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

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      • Then get the media involved. Make it look like there’s a really big , really dirty, really tax-wasting scheme behind the strict filming distance. It might be difficult seeing that most of the media corps. are connected with politicians = connected to other powerful people including the police force = there’s probably no hope. I would try getting the ACLU involved, but they most likely won’t get involved until something is done – much like our justice system.

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