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Abbott Signs 'Javier Ambler's Law,' Banning Contracts Between Law Enforcement And Reality TV Shows

A person uses a cellphone to take a photo of a mural of Javier Ambler.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Friends, family and supporters gather at Home Slice Pizza on Congress Avenue as a mural for Javier Ambler is revealed in October. Ambler died while in the custody of Williamson County deputies in March 2019 .

Law enforcement agencies in Texas will no longer be able to enter into contracts with reality television shows after Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 54 into law. The law will go into effect immediately.

The bill, authored by Democratic state Rep. James Talarico of Round Rock, is also known as "Javier Ambler's Law."

Ambler was a 40-year-old Black man from Pflugerville who died in Williamson County deputies' custody in March 2019. He was pursued by law enforcement for 22 minutes after allegedly failing to dim his headlights to oncoming traffic. When deputies stopped Ambler, they used their Tasers on him as he repeatedly told them he had a heart condition and said he couldn't breathe. Ambler died shortly after.

"I think ... our ultimate goal is to get to a place where we're not having to name legislation after our murdered Black neighbors."
Rep. James Talarico

The incident was filmed by a crew with the reality television show "Live PD." The Williamson County Sheriff's Department had a contract with the now-canceled show at the time.

Talarico said he worked with Ambler's family to write the bill "to ensure that policing is not entertainment in the state of Texas."

Ambler's sister, Kimberly Ambler, said seeing her brother's name attached to the law is bittersweet.

"Unfortunately, he's not here," she said. "But ... he was a caring person. He would want to do something that would help protect and save other people's lives, so this is the perfect thing."

Talarico said the bill was one of the few police reforms the Texas Legislature supported. He said other measures that need to take place include adequate training on use of force, ensuring law enforcement leaders aren't incentivizing violence, banning chokeholds and eliminating no-knock warrants.

"I think ... our ultimate goal is to get to a place where we're not having to name legislation after our murdered Black neighbors," Talarico said.

Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody and Williamson County’s former general counsel Jason Nassour are currently facing evidence tampering chargesrelated to the destruction of footage capturing Ambler's death.

The Williamson County Sheriff's Office was unable to comment because of the ongoing litigation.

Allyson Ortegon is a former Williamson County reporter for KUT.
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