Texas Bans Reality TV Policing Shows

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The Texas Legislature has passed a bill that would make it illegal for law enforcement agencies to authorize reality television crews to film officers on duty, reports The New York Times. James Talarico, the Democratic state representative who introduced the legislation, cited an investigation by The Austin American-Statesman, which reported last year that law enforcement officers in Williamson County, Texas, were more violent when the “Live PD” cameras were rolling. The bill, which the Legislature passed with bipartisan support on May 13, is named after Javier Ambler II, a 40-year-old father of two who died in 2019 after Williamson County officers forcibly arrested him in front of a “Live PD” camera crew. That show was taken off the air in June. So was “Cops,” which had beamed arrests, confrontations and car chases to televisions across the United States for decades.  Editor’s Note: the Statesman story was a runner-up in this year’s John Jay Harry Frank Guggenheim Awards for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting.

The cancellations came amid nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. They also followed years of campaigning by the racial justice organization Color of Change, which had been pushing networks to drop “Cops” since at least 2013. However, while supporters applauded the new bill, with two flagship policing programs already canceled, it is unclear whether the law would have any immediate effect if approved by Gov. Abbott. Meanwhile, Hawkins, Tx., Chief Manfred Gilow, the subject of a reality policing program called “Der Germinator,” argued that the program should be allowed to continue, characterizing it as more of a documentary than a reality show. He said it offered German viewers a glimpse of life in the United States, as well as a cautionary tale about the consequences of crime. “I think it is positive,” Chief Gilow said. “But you will have some people just hating it because they hate the police.” He added that the show did not violate anyone’s rights and blurred the faces of people who did not consent to be filmed.

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