A Republican state lawmaker wants to create strict buffer zones between police and “independent bloggers” who record police activity.
Rep. Jason Villalba of Dallas filed a bill this week that would make it a Class B misdemeanor for anyone but news media to record police within 25 feet, or within 100 feet if the person carries a handgun. The proposal would exempt from the law members of the traditional news media — including newspapers, magazines and licensed radio and television stations — who could be as close as 10 feet away.
“This is primarily for independent bloggers who are focused on keeping law enforcement accountable,” Villalba said Friday.
Villalba said he supports more police accountability — and has filed another bill to require officers to record activity upon responding to a family violence call — but filed the bill for officers’ safety.
Frederick Frazier, the first vice president of the Dallas Police Association, said he and others asked Villalba to file the bill after tense encounters between police and people with cameras in Tarrant County, Houston and Dallas.
People and groups opposing the proposal say it would violate constitutional rights.
Austin police accountability activist Antonio Buehler, who was acquitted in October for the misdemeanor charge of failing to comply with the order of an officer — after taking pictures of police during a drunken driving investigation — said Villalba is attacking the most basic fundamental right of Americans.
“It would be a clear violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution,” Buehler told the American-Statesman Friday.
Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director of the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement that taping police actions has led to the shining of light on many high-profile incidents of police abuse, such as the Los Angeles Police Department’s beating of Rodney King.
“HB 2918 would deprive us of an important check against abuse of power by the police,” she said.