Texas Representative Jason Villalba was so confident he would win the favor of cops with his bill that would make it illegal to record police from within 25 feet, that the Texas politician arrogantly condescended anybody on Twitter who dared criticize him, boasting that he was doing it to “protect officers.”
But then the state’s largest police union criticized the bill on the basis that it would give citizens too much freedom to record them in public.
After all, they say, making it illegal for citizens to record cops from within 25 feet essentially makes it legal for citizens to record from at least 25 feet.
And that would make it harder for officers to order citizens with cameras even further away as they do on a regular basis.
It is twisted logic that only a cop would understand because anybody with any legal sense could see that the entire bill is unconstitutional. Especially after the landmark Glik case ruled that all citizens have the right to record police in public as long as they are not physically interfering.
But now that Villalba has failed to win the support of cops, not to mention the support of fellow republicans, the 44-year-old native Texan is expected to withdraw the bill.
According to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth:
A Republican lawmaker’s bill limiting bloggers who film police looks to be on life support after reaping strong opposition from the state’s largest police officers’ union.
The proposal would incriminate people who film police activity within 25 feet, or within 100 feet if the person is carrying a handgun.
Traditional news media would be exempted from the Class B misdemeanor charge, said Dallas Rep. Jason Villalba, who has said that the bill targets “independent bloggers who are focused on keeping law enforcement accountable.”
Villalba’s bill was set to have a hearing Thursday, his 44th birthday, but he withdrew the bill from the committee agenda. That came a day after he heard complaints from the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.
[highlight]Villalba insists he withdrew the bill because it’s being amended and the hearing would run very late. But the association’s executive director, Charley Wilkison, said Villalba suggested he was pulling the bill permanently during a phone call Wednesday after both of them appeared on FOX News.
“His indication was that he wasn’t going to go forward with it,” Wilkison said Friday. “We would have been opposed in the hearing, but we didn’t even get that far.”
Jordan Hunter, Villalba’s spokeswoman, said the legislator is working with Wilkison’s group to finesse the bill “to where they might be able to support it a little more.”
If scrapped, it’d be the second failed Villalba proposal session — he killed another bill amid pressure from Texas businesses.
Wilkison, whose group boasts more than 18,500 members, said the proposal is unnecessary and dangerous. Now, he said, Texas’ 76,000 licensed peace officers have discretion on where to cordon off a crime scene.
Setting limits as Villalba has proposed would be “worse for the rank-and-file,” and hard to enforce, Wilkison said, quipping, “so the officer’s going to have a tape measure at the scene?”
So it appears as if Villalba is quietly withdrawing the bill after boasting so proudly that he introducing the bill on behalf of officers who asked him to do so in order to keep them safe.
It is true that the vice president of the Dallas Police Association acknowledged that he had asked Villalba to introduce the bill.
But the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, which consists of several police unions throughout the state, making it the largest police union in Texas, realized that the bill could backfire on them by giving citizens a solid argument that they are allowed to record from 25 feet.
As it is now, police are under the impression that they could create an arbitrary buffer between themselves and citizens with cameras by ordering them to move down the block where they are unable to record anything.
And that may have worked a few years ago when most citizens were clueless about their rights, but it’s no longer working these days now that citizens are willing to stand up for their rights.
The bill is officially alive despite Villalba withdrawing it from a public hearing on Thursday, according to the Texas Legislature website.