Bill aims to protect Texans who record police officers

By: Morgan Downing Email
By: Morgan Downing Email

SHERMAN, TX -- SHERMAN, TX -- A bill seeks to clarify your right to film officers in Texas.

Recording video of law enforcement officers while they're performing their duties has become commonplace with today's technology. Just a few months ago, right here in Texoma, it captured actions by police in Saint Jo, Texas that ultimately led to the specific officer's dismissal.

State Senator Craig Estes just authored Senate Bill 897, or the "Freedom to Film Act". Estes says most law enforcement agencies know it is ok for people film them while they're on duty, but he hopes to preserve the rights of citizens who are doing so.

It's made headlines -- people arrested while recording on duty police officers. In this cell phone video, an Alice, Texas man is arrested after an officer tells the man he's worried about the video going on YouTube.

State Senator Craig Estes' bill aims to straighten out any confusion when it comes to recording on-duty police.

"Just seeks to clarify that the citizen is perfectly within their rights filming police officers in the course of their public duties. After all, they are public servants and they shouldn't be doing anything that they wouldn't want to have caught on film," Estes said.

Senate Bill 897 says it's perfectly legal for citizens to record police as long as they're not breaking the law.

"I don't see any problem with it at all," Bob Jarvis said.

Defense attorney, Bob Jarvis, says these videos usually help in the long run.

"Any time you have a video tape that's going to be the best evidence for the jury, either side, the prosecution or the defense. And it's best for the public so that they can be assured that their police officers and public servants are doing their jobs correctly," Jarvis said.

Sherman police officers agree, but with a precaution.

"Our primary concern is to make sure that everybody is safe."

Sergeant DM Hampton says Sherman police officers are well aware of a citizen's right to record them, but he says it can become a problem in dangerous situations.

"When officers are out there on the street if they're making an arrest or if they've got a car pulled over and somebody is video taping, the officer doesn't know who that person is," Sgt. Hampton said.

He says it's important to keep a safe distance when recording, and not hinder the officer from performing their job. Estes believes the bill will help improve accountability.

"I think at the end of the day this bill will encourage police to continue to be good public servants."

Under the bill -- If a person who simply recorded on-duty police officer is arrested and charged -- but later found innocent -- the law enforcement agency would have to reimburse that person's court costs. We'll keep you updated on the Bill's status.


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