State Congressman Jason Villalba (R) introduced a bill to the Texas House yesterday that would make recording police officers a class B misdemeanor, the Houston Chronicle reported.
House Bill 2918, specifically, “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 [record] within 100 feet of an officer.”
The bill also says that only radio or tv stations with licenses from the Federal Communications Commission, qualifying newspapers, and magazines “that [appear] at a regular interval” would be allowed to record law enforcement.
“[House bill 2981] just asks filmers to stand back a little so as to not interfere with law enforcement,” said Rep. Villalba.
A 2011 appeals court unanimously ruled that police can be recorded by the public, so Villalba’s bill looks to reverse that decision.
Pieces of legislation like this are not so much for ensuring the safety of the police; they are for protecting the police. Making it illegal to record police encounters protects the police in any case where a citizen reports misconduct.
As exhibited, most recently, by the Walter Scott incident in South Carolina, recording the police can easily clarify what actually happened, especially in situations where shots are fired. Had that video not been recorded, who knows if the truth about the officer would have ever come out.