War on Cameras

Texas Legislator Proposes Criminalizing Filming Police Up Close

Interference as an excuse for censorship.


Credit: See-ming Lee ??? SML / photo on flickr

Texas Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) seems to think that the problem between the relationship between the police and the citizenry is on the citizenry end. They keep bugging police by trying to film them, you see? So he's introducing legislation in Texas to make it a crime to film police officers up close.

House Bill 2918 would provide exceptions for licensed television and radio outlets as well as newspapers (but not blogs or online news sites). Everybody else would have to record police from a distance no closer than 25 feet. If the officer is "carrying a handgun," then non-media folks cannot record any closer than 100 feet.

Villalba defended the bill as asking "filmers to stand back a little so as not to interfere with law enforcement." It also obviously has the impact of forbidding anybody who is directly interacting with the police from recording the incident. He seems to be acting as though it's only bystanders jumping in to get up in officers' faces to record them, not whomever is actually dealing with them. This means in potential cases of police abuse, if there are no eyewitnesses around (at least 25 feet back), citizens would not be allowed to document their own mistreatment.

It's not clear to me whether Villalba's bill has a chance to actually get anywhere. The Houston Chronicle reminded its readers that the courts have ruled that citizens have the right to film the police.

(Hat tip to Will)