A lawmaker in Texas is facing some criticism after introducing a bill that would make recording police activities within a certain distance a class A misdemeanor.
Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, introduced house bill 2918 on March 10th. The bill aims to make it an offence to record police activities within 25 ft., or 100ft if the person is armed. Villalba claims the bill only aims to give officers some space to allow them to conduct their duties, while critics are already citing the first amendment. Some even claim that the bill aims to make all recording of police illegal, something he says it doesn’t do. If this bill passes, it may take effect on Sept 1st, 2015.
The bill does grant an exception to journalists with traditional radio, TV, newspaper, and magazine outlets.
The bill itself doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. Villalba is not saying that everyone needs to be prosecuted for attempting to record police; rather he is saying that they should simply have some space, allowing them to properly perform their job. From a rational perspective, it actually makes a lot of sense. Some may argue that this bill takes away some level of police accountability that video recording gives, but that statement is misleading. There is still accountability, because the bill doesn’t make it illegal to record police, it simply asks those who decide to record police to stand back.
But, how would this bill affect those involved in the police interaction? If someone who is directly dealing with an officer decides to record them, does that break this law? That would be well within 25 ft. This is a question that needs to be answered before this bill becomes law.
This bill may sound horrible if you overlook the key detail about it making it an offence to record police within 25 ft. Otherwise, you’ll quickly realize that this bill, if ever passed, may make it easier for both sides. Keeping those who wish to record police back a fair distance allows the officer to do their job, and keeps the person recording from interfering, and from creating a situation where the officer has to come over to determine what they are doing. Sure, there are always going to be people that think such a bill is a horrible injustice, but it’s simply a response to what so many people have taken to doing; recording police in the name of accountability. Take a quick look at YouTube, and you’ll soon discover how many people really do this. This bill is simply something that makes sense for both sides. This way, there is no question of what a reasonable distance away from the officer is. If this becomes law, it makes it very clear what distance should be maintained between the person video recording, and the officer: 25ft, or 100ft if you’re armed.
There is nothing wrong with this bill. If anything, it should pass. It’s simply common sense, it’s not some overreaching bill that would prevent recording of police entirely; rather it makes things much easier for both parties involved.