House Bill 54 could ban reality TV access to Texas law enforcement
AUSTIN, Texas - A Texas House committee recently discussed a bill that would ban law enforcement agencies from participating in reality TV shows.
HB 54 was filed by state Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) and will be named after Javier Ambler, who died while being detained by Williamson County deputies in March 2019. He was chased into Austin by the deputies for allegedly not dimming his headlights.
After crashing his vehicle near the intersection of Saint John’s and Bennett, deputies struggled to handcuff Ambler, resulting in the use of a stun gun several times.
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Investigators told FOX 7 that the body cam video released to a local media outlet of the arrest was recorded from an Austin police officer at the scene. In the video, Ambler can be heard telling officers and deputies that he has a heart condition and that he cannot breathe.
A Live PD camera crew was also on the scene at the time of Ambler's arrest, shadowing deputies as part of the show, but the incident was never broadcast and video was deleted.
Ambler's sister helped create the bill. A companion bill, SB 223, was introduced by state Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice. HB 54 has been left pending in the House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee.
Talarico, among other Williamson County officials, called for former Sheriff Robert Chody's resignation last year. Chody later lost his re-election bid to the current Williamson County Sheriff, Mike Gleason. Chody was also indicted on a tampering charge in connection to the case surrounding Ambler's death.
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Chody and Assistant Williamson County Attorney Jason Nassour were indicted on charges of tampering with physical evidence, a third-degree felony which carries a punishment range of 2 to 10 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or probation and up to a $10,000 fine, according to Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick.
Documents obtained by FOX 7 Austin show that Chody was indicted because he is accused of destroying or concealing, namely video recordings and audio recordings, "with intent to impair their availability as evidence in the investigation."
The Live PD video was requested as part of the investigation but was never produced to APD's Special Investigations Unit, which conducted the investigation into the use of force by Williamson County deputies, according to Dick.
The family attorney of Ambler said Chody "was more interested in being part of a reality television program and providing entertaining video content than protecting" Black lives in Austin.
A&E Network canceled Live PD following weeks of protests inspired by the death of George Floyd and reports on the Ambler case. The cancellation was announced a day after the similar show "Cops," on the air for 33 seasons, was dropped by the Paramount Network.