A Republican lawmaker in Texas wants to prevent residents in his state from filming police officers within at least 25 feet, as communities across the country demand greater transparency from law enforcement in the wake of recent deaths at the hands of police officers nationwide.
A new bill, introduced by state Rep. Jason Villalba, would make the offense a misdemeanor. Only members of media organizations who have a license with the Federal Communications Commission would be allowed to film officers, Villalba explained in his filing of House Bill No. 2918. Armed citizens would have to stand back 100 feet.
Americans around the country have pushed for greater transparency with police officers in their neighborhoods, initially following the death of Michael Brown last August in Ferguson, Missouri. Following Brown's death, President Barack Obama in December planned for the government to spend $75 million on body cameras for law enforcement.
Just this month, witnesses on a street in Los Angeles captured a disturbingly graphic cell phone video of a struggle between a suspect and cops that led to the fatal shooting of the man. Last year in New York City, bystanders recorded an officer apparently placing Eric Garner in a chokehold. The Staten Island man died, but a grand jury later chose not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo.
Community leaders in Cleveland, Ohio, where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot outside of a recreation center in November, are working with city officials to require police in every district to wear body cameras by June.
Similar to Texas, a Republican lawmaker in Missouri has pushed back on an effort to increase transparency there, arguing that cops make mistakes. The two newly introduced measures would exempt all footage recorded by police from the state's open record law. Supporters of the bills argue that the damage recorded of the officers will most likely live on the Internet indefinitely.
Video footage has sometimes led to the suspension of officers from police forces, including of a cop in Baltimore, Maryland, who was caught repeatedly beating a man last year. Similarly, near Columbia, South Carolina, a cop was charged with assault after being caught on his dashboard camera firing several gunshots at the driver of a vehicle he pulled over in a parking lot.
If enacted into law, Villalba's bill would take effect on Sept. 1.