WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas — Texas lawmakers are vowing to prevent incidents like the death of Javier Ambler from happening again, six months after the KVUE Defenders first revealed what happened to him while in the custody of Williamson County sheriff's deputies.
A proposed bill being pushed by a local state representative and the dean of the Texas Senate takes aim at what they say created a toxic mix – police work and reality show TV cameras.
When the state Legislature convenes next month, lawmakers plan to ban shows like it from ever partnering with Texas law enforcement agencies again.
State Rep. James Talarico, a Democrat from Round Rock, has filed a bill to ban reality TV crews from filming "peace officers while acting in the line of duty for the purpose of creating a reality television show."
"When you watch that footage, you can see that those deputies were being more aggressive than they otherwise would have, and that is because they were more interested in boosting their ratings than protecting a citizen," Talarico said. "They were more interested in becoming a reality TV show star than serving our neighbors."
The bill is the latest development in the aftermath of reporting by the KVUE Defenders, which first obtained this video in June showing deputies using Tasers on Ambler as he cried that he had congestive heart failure and could not breathe.
House Bill 54 is also named the Javier Ambler Law.
In months following reporting on Ambler's death, the KVUE Defenders also showed other examples of controversial policing tactics while the show filmed, including an apparent made-for-TV no-knock arrest of a man who sat peacefully in court hours earlier and other force encounters aired on the show.
In September, a Williamson County grand jury indicted Sheriff Robert Chody on an evidence tampering charge for his alleged role in destroying "Live PD" footage of Ambler's death. Chody was defeated in the November election.
"There are so many facets that beg for our response," state Sen. John Whitmire, the state's longest-serving senator, said. "No doubt in my mind any reasonable person would think that that had everybody performing for the cameras instead of doing their duty to protect the public, including Mr. Ambler."
Ambler's family approached lawmakers this summer. They had not known before then about the details of his death. Ambler's sister, Kim, said she and her parents wanted to do something that would have a lasting impact on policing in Texas.
"It means a lot to me and my family," she said. "I feel like if 'Live PD' was not there that day, my brother would be here today. I honestly believe that in my heart. So in order not to have anyone deal with this, I feel like police work isn't entertainment."
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