Two years ago, a television crew gathered in the small city of Hawkins, Texas, to film the life and work of Manfred Gilow, the chief of police there.
Cameras followed Chief Gilow as he and his officers responded to calls, snapped handcuffs onto wrists and searched vehicles for drugs. The program was not available on Texas televisions; Chief Gilow is from Germany, and that is where “Der Germinator” (a portmanteau of “German” and “The Terminator”) was broadcast.
Last year, after the nationally broadcast policing shows “Cops” and “Live PD” were canceled, “Der Germinator” filmed a second season. But prospects for a third may have dimmed last week, when the Texas Legislature passed a bill that would make it illegal for law enforcement agencies to authorize reality television crews to film officers on duty.
“Policing is not entertainment,” said James Talarico, the Democratic state representative who introduced the legislation. The office of Gov. Greg Mr. Abbott, a Republican, did not respond to requests for comment this week about whether he would sign the legislation.
an investigation by The Austin American-Statesman, which reported last year that law enforcement officers in Williamson County, Texas, were more violent when the “Live PD” cameras were rolling.
The bill, which the Legislature passed with bipartisan support on May 13, is named after Javier Ambler II, a 40-year-old father of two who died in 2019 after Williamson County officers forcibly arrested him in front of a “Live PD” camera crew.
Mr. Ambler’s sister, Kimberly Ambler-Jones, 39, said she believed that her brother would still be alive if the television crews had not been filming. “Because they had ‘Live PD’ there, it had to be hyped up,” she said. “It had to be drama.”
That show was taken off the air in June. So was “Cops,” which had beamed arrests, confrontations and car chases to televisions across the United States for decades.
The cancellations came amid nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. They also followed years of campaigning by the racial justice organization Color of Change, which had been pushing networks to drop “Cops” since at least 2013.
The Austin American-Statesman and the news outlet KVUE obtained body camera footage.
Mr. Ambler was driving in the Austin area on March 28, 2019, when Williamson County deputies tried to stop him because he did not dim his headlights to traffic, officials said. After deputies tried to pull Mr. Ambler over, the authorities said, he kept driving for more than 20 minutes before crashing his vehicle.
The body camera footage showed that the officers restrained Mr. Ambler and used a Taser on him multiple times. “I have congestive heart failure,” Mr. Ambler could be heard saying. “I can’t breathe.”
Mr. Ambler was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. “Live PD” footage of the arrest was never broadcast on television.