A new bill could make it illegal to photograph and film Texas police officers from less than 25 feet away. The proposed law, House Bill 2918, comes just a week after the city of Los Angeles decided to train its police force that photographing officers is legal.
The proposed law was submitted to the Texas House of Representatives last Tuesday by a state congressman from Dallas. If passed into law, the legislation would make it illegal to point a camera in the direction of police. If violated, the crime is considered a class B misdemeanor. Another part of the measure makes it illegal for gun-toting citizens to photograph an officer from inside 100 feet while carrying a handgun.
Proposed Law Sees Filming as a Disruption
According to the language of the bill, the behavior constitutes an interruption, impediment, disruption or interference with a police officer's ability to perform a duty or exercise authority granted to the officer by law. A card-holding journalist with an FCC license is immune to the law and is permitted to photograph officers inside 25 feet of distance. Alternatively, if the photographer is working on behalf of police in an official capacity, then the photographer will also be immune to the law.
Outrage and Disapproval of the Measure
A large number of individuals showed their outrage and disapproval after the bill was announced. For example, some citizens are worried that the public will not be able to film instances of police misconduct. In response, the state congressman who submitted the legislation decided to explain his position on Twitter. He explained to critics of the measure that he is not asking to make filming of officers illegal, merely that filmers take a step away to give officers the space to do their jobs.
If the bill is made into law, photographers would still be permitted to photograph officers, but they would need to keep a distance of 25 feet. This could create some difficult situations because officers typically will approach people who are filming them and ask them to turn their cameras off. This would, in effect, render the camera operator in violation of the law if he or she continued to film the officer as the officer approached this camera-holding individual.
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