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By Kevin Mathews
With all of the controversy surrounding police misconduct and multiple deaths of unarmed citizens, you'd think that politicians would be trying to find new ways to increase police accountability. On the contrary, Texas is considering implementing a new law that would make it more difficult for residents to film the police.
State Representative Jason Villalba introduced House Bill 2918 in a supposed effort to help keep police officers safe. Although it does not explicitly forbid people from filming the police, it requires them to stand at least 25 feet away from police activity, thereby making the activity a lot more difficult. The 25 feet limit would be extended to 100 feet for civilians who wish to film and are also in possession of a firearm. Reporters for media outlets with an FCC license (i.e. NOT citizen journalists) would be exempt from the law.
Just this past week, an officer who killed an unarmed man in South Carolina claimed self-defense. The cop was likely to walk until video footage shot by an eyewitness showed a completely different reality, and now he faces murder charges. In Texas specifically, Hunt County police recently received criticism when home surveillance footage caught the officers punching and pinning a nearly nine-month pregnant woman to the ground. Incidents like these stress why filming the police is so important.
Due to a number of high-profile killings at the hands of police, several cities around the United States are exploring the option of uniforming police officers with body cameras to increase accountability. The law Texas is considering takes an opposite approach by potentially scaring would-be filmers away with a potential misdemeanor charge.