Cops in the State of Texas want to criminalize cop watching with a camera within 25 feet of the action. So they convinced a state lawmaker in introduce legislation which would establish a 25-foot buffer zone around cops engaged in their policing activities with the public.
Any persons photographing cops within the 25 feet zone would be guilty of a crime. Cop watchers who might be legally carrying a firearm would be required by the law to keep a distance of 100 feet. The law would apply to everyone including journalists.
Now, in my mind there is only one reason why any cop would want such a law. They’re afraid of the possibility of being held accountable for their actions so they don’t want the public filming them too closely. They want the authority to stop and arrest cop watchers with cameras. They want to violate First Amendment constitutional rights.
The First Amendment protects the right of all persons to videotape cops who are acting in plain view so long as they do it in a manner which doesn’t impede the cop’s ability to perform his duty. Filming a cop performing his job in plain view for all to see cannot alone be deemed to impede his activities. In short, watching a cop is not by itself obstructing his ability to do his job.
So this proposed legislation is flatly unconstitutional. Even so, however, there are a lot of Texas cops who object to the proposed law because it doesn’t go far enough to restrict First Amendment rights.
Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), the largest law enforcement association in Texas representing more than 19,000 active peace officers, claims that cops should have the authority to arrest any cop-watcher with a camera no matter how far away they are from the action.
These cops don’t want a buffer zone – they want no zone at all. They don’t want people watching cops. They don’t want to be accountable for their actions with photographic evidence of the truth.
They want to make cop-watchers criminals in Texas.