Saying his bill was personal, not political, a longtime member of the Texas House is proposing to make recordings of 911 calls confidential unless the caller gives permission for their release.
Rep. Todd Hunter, a nine-term Republican from Corpus Christi, said he was motivated by the 2015 Memorial Day Weekend flood that killed eight people from his city — leaving only one survivor from three families who were vacationing along the Blanco River in Wimberley. The victims included his dentist and a member of his legislative staff.
“What bothers me on social media, and in the media, is we sometimes see and hear horrible things. We have to get a little morality, scruples and concern for families that go through awful, tragic circumstances,” Hunter said.
Under HB 3640, a recording or transcript of a 911 call could not be released to the public without consent from the person who placed the emergency call or from their lawyer.
Testifying in support of HB 3640 was Jonathan McComb, who lost his wife and two children, ages 6 and 4, in the Wimberley flood during a celebration of their 10th anniversary.
McComb recalled lying in a hospital bed with broken ribs and punctured lung when a detective warned him that requests had been made to obtain tapes of 911 calls from the home his family and friends were staying in.
“I thought, what good can come from this? It really took me aback,” he told the committee. “Before I can have a proper burial, a proper memorial service … the 911 call was heard. There’s no reason to hear 911 tapes.”
Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, asked Hunter if the bill could unintentionally keep information secret that “the public needs to know” — perhaps instances where release of a 911 tape could help identify or locate a suspect.
Hunter said he hoped to submit a revised version of HB 3640 to the committee by the end of the week to address such concerns.
State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, said he believed Hunter’s bill should be expanded to include police radio calls.
“So here’s the family of a deceased officer whose children are listening to a replay of the shooting and other things, which is incredibly offensive to me and a great disregard by the press and others for that family’s situation,” said King, chairman of the committee.