Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) and Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) both filed identical bills in the Texas Senate and House respectively to add language to the Government Code and the Local Government Code stating, “Any law enforcement department that employs peace officers may not authorize a television crew to film peace officers while acting in the line of duty for the purpose of creating a reality television show.”
Talarico contends that policing should not be a matter of public entertainment.
“There was a lot of statewide and national scrutiny on our community because there was [a] sense that the reality TV show encourages some of our law enforcement officers to use excessive force,” Talarico reportedly said.
He was referring to the death of Javier Ambler, a 40-year-old man who was killed by a Williamson County deputy sheriff after a high-speed chase in March 2019.
Talarico stated on social media that Ambler’s family helped him write the House version of the bill.
A sheriff’s report authored by Sergeant David Lowthorp states that Deputy J.J. Johnson attempted to stop Ambler for failing to dim his lights to oncoming traffic. Ambler then fled and crashed his vehicle a total of five times before surrendering to officers.
The sheriff’s department claims that Ambler resisted arrest for more than two minutes as Johnson and other deputies tried to handcuff him. Lowthorp concluded that the deputies acted properly with respect to the force they used.
However, over the summer, authorities in Travis County indicated they were inquiring further into Ambler’s death for possible criminal violations. In addition, Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody was indicted for tampering with evidence in the case and lost his bid for reelection on November 3. He has denied the allegations.
Lowthorp’s report indicates that Johnson was verbalizing his thought process to the Live PD cameraman who was in Johnson’s vehicle with him.
The network A&E, which produces Live PD, reportedly claimed in a statement that they no longer have the footage of Ambler’s death as a matter of policy.
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Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan in Dallas. During the academic year, he coaches high school competitive speech and debate and has also been involved in community theater and politics. A native Texan, Hayden served as a delegate at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in 2016. He is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Liberty University. In his free time, Hayden is known to take walks around the neighborhood while listening to random music on Spotify.