Texas bans reality television crews from teaming up with the police to film officers on duty

The bill would not prohibit journalists or documentary filmmakers from recording police work

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 27 May 2021 21:50

The governor of Texas has banned film crews from contracting with the police for the "purpose of creating a reality television show."

The bill was introduced by Democratic state Rep. James Talarico and is called Javier Ambler's Law. Mr Ambler was a man from Austin who died in police custody after a film crew from A&E's Live PD filmed his arrest.

The legislation enjoyed bipartisan support in the House and Senate, passing with wide margins before Governor Greg Abbott signed it into law.

Mr Talarico – whose district includes the county where Mr Ambler died – said that "policing is not entertainment."

“I’m proud that Democrats and Republicans came together to pass this bill to protect our citizens and help restore faith in law enforcement,” he said.

Mr Abler died after being stopped by Williamson County Sherrif's deputies for a traffic violation. Deputies used tasers on him multiple times, despite his pleas that he could not breathe and that he suffered from congestive heart failure.

The camera crew from A&E's show Live Pd was following the officers on the day of Mr Ambler's death, though it was not broadcasting live at the time.

The show was accused of destroying unused footage of Mr Ambler's death, while the production company owning the show has filed a lawsuit against the sheriff's office, claiming its deputies illegally seized their cameras and other equipment on the night of Mr Ambler's death.

The show was canceled in last year after details of Mr Ambler's death were reported in the press. The ongoing George Floyd protests added to the pressure for the show - whose primary draw was capturing real, tense situations between police and suspects - to come to an end.

Similarly, the long running police reality TV show Cops was also canceled in 2020.

Two of the deputies involved in Mr Ambler's death were eventually indicted, and the former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody, along with the officer's former general counsel,. Jason Nassour, were indicted on evidence-tampering charges.

While the new law prevents camera crews from shooting reality shows, it does not stop documentary or television news programs from filming police work.

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