Texas law enforcement can no longer contract with reality TV shows

Reality TV shows can no longer contract with Texas law enforcement agencies after Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 54, also known as the Javier Ambler law.

The new Williamson County sheriff said earlier this month that he felt this bill was a direct result of the old administration's partnership with the reality TV show "Live PD".

Javier Ambler was killed during an altercation with Williamson County deputies. On March 28, 2019, deputies pursued Ambler's car from Williamson County into Travis County where he died while deputies were trying to take him into custody. Deputies pursued him because he allegedly failed to dim his headlights to oncoming traffic. 

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. Big Fish Entertainment says in a recently filed lawsuit that WCSO and APD misrepresented information about the video Live PD recorded.

A&E Network later canceled Live PD following weeks of protests inspired by the death of George Floyd and reports on the Ambler case. The family of Javier Ambler has claimed the sheriff deputies were being more aggressive due to there being TV cameras present.


The law, filed by state Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) and drafted with the help of Ambler's sister, now prevents law-enforcement agencies in Texas from participating in reality TV shows. Lawyers representing the family released this statement following the governor's signature of the bill:

"We are pleased Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the Javier Ambler Law that makes it impossible for reality TV shows to partner with police in the state of Texas. 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. 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. Police play a very serious role in our communities and it is critical that officers behave with respect for all lives at all times. We hope other states across the country follow suit and take up similar measures, as well as other desperately needed reforms to policing so we can end our national epidemic of excessive police violence against Black Americans."

Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody has been indicted twice, once in Williamson County and once in Travis County, in the Ambler case on claims he tampered with evidence after it was revealed Live PD no longer had footage of the event. The footage currently available comes from an Austin police officer's body cam who was on the scene.

In addition to Chody, Jason Nassour, former general counsel for the Williamson County Attorney's office, was also indicted twice for tampering with physical evidence in connection with the Ambler case, once in Williamson County and once in Travis County.

There have also been numerous other lawsuits against the sheriff’s office during their time with Live PD.