According to The Free Thought Project, Jason Villalba (R-Dallas), HB 2918 recently filed a bill that would rob private citizens of the ability to hold officers accountable for their actions via filming. The result would prevent folks from creating an accurate and impartial record of what actually happens when law enforcement interacts with those they are sworn to protect.
If passed, the proposed bill, filed last month, would amend the current “INTERFERENCE WITH PUBLIC DUTIES” statute (Sec. 38.15), to feature language that would only allow “news media” to be the only ones involved in the filming of police (within 25ft).
Per The Free Thought Project, “news media” is defined as:
(A) a radio or television station that holds a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission;
(B) a newspaper that is qualified under Section 2051.044, Government Code, to publish legal notices or is a free newspaper of general circulation and that is published at least once a week and available and of interest to the general public in connection with the dissemination of news or public affairs; or
(C) a magazine that appears at a regular interval, that contains stories, articles, and essays by various writers, and that is available and of interest to the general public in connection with the dissemination of news or public affairs.
Although radio and TV stations are mentioned, in addition to printed publications, neither private citizens nor internet-based sites were labeled “news media.”
What this means is regular people who aren’t part of the corporate media structure will be shut out and unable to record their own interaction with officers. Villalba’s bill looks to reinforce the current notion of law enforcement controlling the narrative of police-involved incidents. As it stands now, traditional news outlets “often rely almost solely on police talking points when running a story involving the police,” The Free Thought Project reports, adding that a narrative including the victim’s version of events is “extremely rare,” especially if it differs from the version given by authorities.
The site goes on to note how the bill would trample over a legal precedent that was established in the case of Glik v Cunniffe. In that case, the court stated that “a private citizen has the right to record video and audio of public officials in a public place.”
“…we have previously recognized that the videotaping of public officials is an exercise of First Amendment liberties,” the court maintained while affirming Glik’s constitutional right to videotape public officials in public places.
In addition, the court acknowledged that the right to film public officials in public places was clearly established as far back as 1997, a decade prior to Glik v Cunniffe.