Senate Research Center
SPONSOR'S STATEMENT OF INTENT
- Several recent
cases involving the death or serious injury to suspected offenders during
arrests have involved situations where law enforcement agencies have been
involved in filming reality television shows at the time.
- One case involved
Javier Ambler II, who was chased by chased by Williamson County deputies
for 22 minutes after he failed to dim his headlights, then used their
Tasers on him four times after he was stopped as the events were filmed
for "Live PD." Ambler said he could not breathe and died of
congestive heart failure.
- Other cases have
included allegations that law enforcement officers used excessive force or
overreacted and forsook sound policing policies that endangered the public
because the TV cameras were rolling.
- Other cases in
Williamson County involved the filming of an arrest where several deputies
unleashed a barrage of punches, knee jabs, and Taser shocks as
Mitchell Ramsey tried to run away from a traffic stop in June, 2019.
- In another case,
a Williamson County SWAT raid that the show's TV cameras filmed broke
down Asher Watsky's father's front door in May, 2019, to arrest his
son on a warrant stemming from a fight with his roommate. Watsky had
sat peacefully in Williamson County court hours earlier, where deputies
could have taken him into custody without fanfare.
- Critics contend
the practice can lead to unfair consequences for people who have not been
convicted of a crime, exploit people of color, and do little to
improve or further the dialogue on policing in America.
- The Ambler case
has resulted in the indictment of a sheriff and several deputies and
raised serious questions about whether police should be acting in the line
of duty as part of a reality TV show.
- S.B. 223
prohibits law enforcement departments from contracting with television
crews or authorizing a television crew to film peace officers in Texas
from acting in the line of duty as a part of a reality television show.
- The bill moves to
halt a practice that has been demonstrated to be detrimental to good police
work, to public safety, and to the interests of Texans who face police
- It would also
prevent police from unwittingly becoming involved in situations where
solid police work could be compromised for ratings and celebrity.
- The measure would
take effect on September 1, 2021.
As proposed, S.B. 223 amends
current law relating to prohibiting law enforcement departments from
contracting with television crews to create reality shows.
This bill does not
expressly grant any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer,
institution, or agency.
SECTION 1. Amends Chapter
180, Local Government Code, by adding Section 180.008, as follows:
Sec. 180.008. PROHIBITING CONTRACTS WITH REALITY TELEVISION
CREWS. (a) Prohibits any law enforcement department that employs peace officers
from authorizing a television crew to film peace officers while acting in the
line of duty for the purpose of creating a reality television show.
SECTION 2. Amends Subchapter
A, Chapter 411, Government Code, by adding Section 411.02096, as follows:
Sec. 411.02096. PROHIBITING CONTRACTS WITH REALITY
TELEVISION CREWS. (a) Prohibits any law enforcement department that employs
peace officers from authorizing a television crew to film peace officers while
acting in the line of duty for the purpose of creating a reality television
SECTION 3. Effective
date: upon passage or September 1, 2021.