B’ham lawmaker working to make it easier for public to get police body camera video

B’ham lawmaker working to make it easier for public to get police body camera video
Birmingham lawmaker working to get more public access to police body cameras (Source: WBRC FOX6 News)

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A Birmingham-area lawmaker trying to make it easier for you to get access to public records when it comes to police body cameras. But when we first saw the bill, it said you shouldn’t have access to public recordings. Representative Juandalynn Givan’s staff is rewording the bill.

From time to time in Alabama, the public gets a glimpse into what police body cameras capture. The reason we don’t see them all the time is because Alabama doesn’t have any state laws governing when or how policy body camera footage should be released.

Rep. Givan is working to change that.

"Why isn’t that body cam treated like any other public document? Why it is any different from the Freedom of Information Act?” Rep. Givan said.

Rep. Givan says House Bill 36 would give victims, their family members, attorneys and even the media better access to getting police body camera video. It comes in response to the officer involved shooting death of E.J. Bradford at the Galleria Mall. Rep. Givan says the bill is all about transparency.

"No one should have to go six months, three months, four months out without being able to see a video or see a recording,” she said.

Sgt. Heath Boackle, an executive board member with the Birmingham Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1, tells us releasing body camera video too soon could jeopardize investigations.

"The concern would be if it comes out and its not the totality of the events before the case is even heard in a court of law, it could taint the jury and it also could give issues or concerns to the people that are seeing it without knowing all the facts,” Sgt. Boackle said.

The Alabama Broadcasters Association says it’s important for people and journalists to have access to public records. The ABA hopes this bill will make it a little easier to get them.

"Broadcasters have that responsibility It’s part of their roles as public servants. We’re licensed in the public service and it’s our role to be in that place for the public where they can’t often be,” Sharon Tinsley, president of the ABA, said.

Rep. Givan feels having a body camera law would strengthen public confidence and help with public safety.

You can read more on the bill by clicking here.

Copyright 2019 WBRC. All rights reserved.