Texas bans law enforcement partnerships with reality TV shows

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Friday a bill that will make it illegal for law enforcement agencies in the state to partner with reality TV shows. 

The "Javier Ambler Law," is named for a man who died during an arrest following a police pursuit in the state in 2019 while a crew from the now-canceled "Live PD" show followed, FOX 7 in Austin reported. 

Ambler's family has said they believe the police felt pressured by the cameras to make "exciting" TV, placing Ambler in a more dangerous situation. 

"Javier Ambler was killed because Williamson County deputies were encouraged to produce exciting reality television instead of simply protecting and serving the public," the Ambler family said in a statement, according to the Austin American-Statesman. "As a consequence of this unconscionable decision by the county and its sheriff, a beloved father and son was senselessly killed."

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Deputies initially pursued Ambler because he allegedly didn’t dim his headlights for oncoming traffic, FOX 7 reported.  

The bill was introduced by state Rep. James Talarico, a Democrat, and received bipartisan support. It passed overwhelmingly through the legislature. 

Ambler died March 28, 2019, following an arrest after he crashed his car during a pursuit. Officers had hit him with a stun gun several times and he told them he couldn’t breathe and had a heart condition. 

The chase and Ambler’s arrest were recorded on "Live PD" but never aired. The TV crew later deleted the deadly footage, which is now the subject of an investigation. 

Two of the involved deputies also face manslaughter charges, according to the American-Statesman. 

Lawyers for Ambler's family released a statement on Friday, saying the family was "pleased" Abbott had signed the legislation into law. 

"It is a common-sense law that will protect citizens — Black citizens in particular — against aggressive policing by officers who behave excessively to put on a show for the cameras," the statement said, according to FOX 7. "Javier Ambler should not have died in the custody of Williamson County deputies while the ‘Live PD’ cameras rolled in March of 2019. Our client will grow up without a father because of this senseless tragedy."

Violent encounters between law enforcement and citizens increased during the agencies' 18-month partnership with the show, the American-Statesman reported. 

"Live PD" and the long-running show "COPS" were both canceled last year amid police brutality protests spurred on by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer who was convicted last month in his murder. 

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"Live PD," which followed several law enforcement agencies around the country ran for four seasons. It was canceled shortly after details for the Ambler arrest emerged. 

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