Texas Bill Would Restrict Recording of Cops

Another day, another ridiculous and disingenuous bill from the Texas legislature. State Rep. Jason Villalba has submitted a bill that would greatly restrict the right of individuals to record police officers making an arrest, something that has proven irreplaceable in discovering misconduct and brutality.

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.

As defined in the bill, only a radio or television that holds a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission, a newspaper that is qualified under section 2051.044 or a magazine that appears at a regular interval would be allowed to record police.

“(My bill) just asks filmers to stand back a little so as to not interfere with law enforcement,” said Villalba.

But if it’s actually about not wanting people around to possibly interfere with law enforcement, why not include those with press credentials? And if you’re going to allow radio and television stations, why not newspapers and magazines as well? This is quite inconsistent. Is there any evidence whatsoever that observers who are not licensed by the FCC are routinely or even occasionally interfering with a crime scene? If they genuinely are doing so, they can be arrested. Of course, we know of lots and lots of situations where the police have arrested people on that premise only to have the video show they were doing no such thing and the police were lying (stop me if you’ve heard that one before).

We all know what this is really all about. It’s very unlikely that a radio or TV station is going to be able to get to a scene to film an arrest situation, but much more likely that someone with a cell phone walking by will be able to film it. The goal and the result of this bill is to make it far less likely that the police will be caught engaging in abuse, brutality or misconduct.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • doublereed

    Isn’t this unconstitutional? I thought the courts have rules again and again that it falls under free speech.

  • Kevin Kehres

    @1 … yes, it’s clearly unConstitutional. When has that ever stopped a Republican?

  • dcsohl

    “stand back a little” == 5 feet. I could go for five feet.

    25 feet is designed to ensure you and your mic can’t hear what’s going on.

    I’m also confused about the second bit – “those who are armed” must stay 100 feet away while recording? Has there been a spate of armed gunmen recording cops at gunpoint?

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    #RepublicansHateOurFreedom

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    It’s not a First Amendment issue, it’s a Public Safety issue. If someone is filming, they’re distracted and aren’t paying attention, which could lead to them falling and hurting themselves when they get tased or shot.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    dcsohl “I’m also confused about the second bit – “those who are armed” must stay 100 feet away while recording? Has there been a spate of armed gunmen recording cops at gunpoint?”

    You’re missing the other question: “How close can people with only a gun stand?”

  • dugglebogey

    What we really need is a completely opposite law protecting people who have recorded police behaving badly.

    If I had that recording of Office Slager I would have been terrified of what the police would do to me to keep me from distributing that recording. No wonder that person is remaining anonymous, does anyone doubt the harassment that would occur from the police if they knew who it was?

  • dugglebogey

    Correction: The guy came forward. Let’s see if he feels any repercussions.

  • raym

    So if I’m filming such an event from a distance of 25 feet, and the policeman walks 2 feet in my direction, I’m suddenly breaking the law. That makes perfect Republican sense.

  • blf

    I wonder if the “FCC license” nonsense would (presumably inadvertently) allow ham radio (amateur radio) licensed people? Whilst rare (as far as I know, they certainly were when I had an amateur license) such people can be found anywheres…

  • grasshopper

    So somebody with a camera is within 25 feet of the police action. Should the police feel that if you give them an inch they will take 25 feet, and so arrest that person, does the location of this incident define a new zone of prohibition so that any photographer within 25 feet of the !st photographer is forbidden to document the arrest. And so on. This could be an efficient method of clearing a direct path to the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts.

  • Abby Normal

    If this bill were to become law it would make it much more difficult to catch and convict illegal behavior by police. In other words it protects criminals. Rep. Jason Villalba is soft on crime.

  • busterggi

    Ah Texas! Cameras should be licensed but not guns. I guess anyone with a cell phone will be a potential suspect for intention to photograph.

  • unnullifier

    The bill is supposedly going to be killed because the largest police union in Texas opposed it. But not because they respect citizens’ 1st Amendment rights:

    But then the state’s largest police union criticized the bill on the basis that it would give citizens too much freedom to record them in public.

    After all, they say, making it illegal for citizens to record cops from within 25 feet essentially makes it legal for citizens to record from at least 25 feet.

    And that would make it harder for officers to order citizens with cameras even further away as they do on a regular basis.

  • eric

    … would make private citizens photographing or recording the police within 25 feet of them a class B misdemeanor….

    No, no, no, that’s all wrong. We all know its a class X misdemeanor. Class X misdemeanors are punishable by immediate severe beating by cop and confiscation of any device that has recorded illegal police actions.

  • eric

    Ah Texas! Cameras should be licensed but not guns.

    I’m going to make myself millions selling gun scopes that come in with a built-in feed to Youtube.

  • grumpyoldfart

    Villalba probably doesn’t give a stuff about whether or not the bill is passed. Either he has been paid by a lobby group, or he is trying to curry favor with his constituents. Introducing the bill gets him the headline; what happens next is no concern of his.

  • teele

    “As defined in the bill, only a radio or television that holds a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission, a newspaper that is qualified under section 2051.044 or a magazine that appears at a regular interval would be allowed to record police.”

    That’s right, only someone who has gone through the federal bureaucracy and red tape and acquired the necessary licenses and paperwork has a right to record a government employee [not] doing his job. Only a freedom-lovin’ Texicon will fight fer a citizen’s right not to be overburdened by the gummint, ‘ceptin’ when that right interferes with the rights of another gummint employee to do a crappy job and keep gettin’ paid.

  • abb3w

    Blog coverage here points to news coverage indicating that the legislative idiot in question decided to put the plan on hold after the state’s biggest police union came out against the initial version. (Damn unions….)

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    Wait, people with guns have to stay further away, so have less rights than people without guns? In Texas? Was that approved by the NRA?

  • llewelly

    doublereed:

    Isn’t this unconstitutional?

    That is the plan. They think promoting an unconstitutional law is a great way to raise money. Plus, it drains the coffers of the people who oppose them. As a bonus, it enables them to perpetuate discrimination for a while. It will fail eventually, but that’s ok, because they’ll come up with further unconstitutional laws in the future.

  • ianken

    But what if it’s a camera SHAPED LIKE A GUN?

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Deen “Wait, people with guns have to stay further away, so have less rights than people without guns? In Texas?”

    To be fair, they might take a picture.

  • caseloweraz

    dcsohl: I’m also confused about the second bit – “those who are armed” must stay 100 feet away while recording? Has there been a spate of armed gunmen recording cops at gunpoint?

    It seems likely to me that the people (civilians) carrying guns would seldom be inclined to film the police doing something that would bring discredit to the police.

    But that aside, I’ll hazard a guess that the intent of this provision is to reduce the danger that someone armed might film (or observe) a police action that offends him and either challenge the police or start blasting away. (What difference 100 feet of separation makes in such a case eludes me.)