In Texas, it may soon be wise to put away your phone or recording devices when around police, unless you’re willing to risk arrest.
It sounds like a clear violation of our constitutional rights, but a bill introduced to the Texas House of Representatives aims to make it illegal for private citizens to record police within 25 feet.
The restrictive House Bill 2918, introduced by Texas Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas), states that 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,” according to the Houston Chronicle.
In addition, the bill would make recording police within the 25 feet specified a class B misdemeanor. Citizens who are armed would not be allowed to record police activity within 100 feet of an officer.
And in what may seem like a convenience for police, the bill comes at a time when citizens nationwide are relying on recording devices to monitor police officer activity. In July 2014, bystanders recorded the death of Eric Garner of Staten Island at the hands of an NYPD officer. Just recently, witnesses recorded the shooting death of migrant worker Antonio Zambrano-Montes. And in Ferguson, Mo., where an unarmed Michael Brown Jr. was shot dead by a police officer, protesters and activists have relied heavily on recordings to support the claim that police officer practices were racially biased.
Just last week, a Justice Department investigation revealed that was, in fact, true.
But despite the pushback surrounding the legality of the bill, Villalba took to Twitter to defend the legislation.
@brettsanders My bill does no such thing. Just asks filmers to stand back a little so as not to interfere with law enforcement.