Watler: Texas should make police body cam video and citizen complaints public

By Paul C. Watler
Originally published June 24, 2020 in The Dallas Morning News

Many Americans protesting the death of George Floyd have demanded greater official accountability in the deaths of black citizens during encounters with police.

Police face enormous challenges in fulfilling their sworn duty to protect and to serve. We send them out in our name to prevent crime and keep us safe in our homes, schools and communities. To meet that responsibility, we vest police with extraordinary power, including in some cases the use of deadly force. In the vast majority of cases, officers use their special powers in an effective, reasonable and color-blind manner.

Sometimes, cops deviate from the high standards of their profession. Those suspected instances call for special oversight. Yet, current law often shields allegations of police misconduct from public view.

Texas, like many other states, structures public information law to insulate police from public scrutiny. 

Read the full column here.

Paul C. Watler is a Dallas attorney who has represented news media clients in cases seeking access to police records, and he has represented The Dallas Morning News. The opinions in this article are his own.

Watler is also a past president of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and currently serves on the foundation’s board.