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State lawmaker proposes changes to police video recording policies in Texas

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 7:00 PM CDT
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AUSTIN, Texas (KWTX) - State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, says police should inform members of the public when they are recording them, for example, at a traffic stop or during any other official business.

House Bill 1757 would require police to make that announcement unless it would be “unsafe, unrealistic or impracticable” or if the interaction was part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

It would also make it a third-degree felony for an officer or another law enforcement employee to alter, destroy or conceal an audio or video recording of an officer performing their official duties.

Shefali Patil, a researcher at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin who has studied interactions between police and the public for several years, says the bill could promote “transparency.”

In a recent study, she found that officers respond favorably to wearing body cameras when they can readily access the footage.

“It almost has like this depolarizing effect,” Shefali told KWTX.

“They’re more likely to be respectful toward citizens, and they’re more likely to go above and beyond to portray a good image toward law enforcement in general,” she said.

Shefali said that affording the public the same transparency could produce similar positive effects.

The bill would also prohibit officers from telling someone to stop recording or observing them, but officers could still tell someone to move to a different position.

Charley Wilkison, the executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations, told KWTX that the bill is “unnecessary” because people generally know they are being recorded already.

He also said that the bill could be dangerous for officers.

“That would be turned into a threat by criminal defense attorneys,” he said.

“They would turn it around on officers and say the officer is using the camera and the threat of it being filmed to somehow scare the public,” Wilkison said.

The bill was heard in the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee on Thursday.

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