Bill would require human trafficking training for AL law enforcement

AL lawmaker sponsors bill to tighten training in human trafficking cases

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WSFA) - Jordan Giddens says he was drugged, assaulted and nearly became a victim of human trafficking back in 2015.

“On the way I started to cry and I said ‘why aren’t you taking me home?’ He said ‘you’ll be fine,’” Giddens recalled.

Giddens believes someone drugged his drink at a Birmingham bar while he was in the restroom.

“We pulled up behind a U-Haul," he stated, “which literally had people with duct taped mouths and their hands behind their back. And at that point I really started to freak out and realize, okay something is wrong.”

Giddens managed to escape, but not all are as fortunate.

Sunny Slaughter is a national anti-human trafficking expert and has participated in several current human trafficking courses for law enforcement in Alabama. She said human trafficking happens in all parts of the state, but warns law enforcement is not properly trained to handle these cases.

State Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham, is proposing a bill that would require human trafficking training for Alabama’s law enforcement officers. She said law enforcement, at times, miscatagorizes human trafficking victims.

“Often times there are men, women and children that someone may have felt they were prostitutes when actually those are human trafficking victims," Coleman said.

Lt. Darren Beams works with the Tuscaloosa Police Department. He is part of the West Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force in Tuscaloosa County. They provide a human trafficking training block for all of their new hires.

“It also goes for the things of signs to look for when you’re out on these calls in these hotels, these convenient stores, and these places where they may bump into a trafficking situation,” Beams stated.

Beams supports the Coleman’s bill and said, many times, Alabama law enforcement officers don’t understand state and federal laws that they operate under. He said training is especially need for rural police departments where there are “questionable” hotels in rural areas.

Coleman said she would like to see all law enforcement receive training similar to what the Tuscaloosa Police Department gives. She hopes when the bill is proposed, she can create a summit with stakeholders to talk through best practices.

“I am not a law enforcement officer," Coleman admitted. “I want to make sure that the people that will actually end up having to put this in practice let me know what is the best way to get this training to their folks.”

Coleman is also sponsoring other bills to create training for medical personnel and truckers.

“We need to come up with a solution ourselves to make sure all of these entities are trained,” she went on.

She is also sponsoring a bill that would allow someone who is caught by law enforcement for purchasing sex to have their picture exposed.

“We want to serve as a determent from people participating in the illegal activity of prostitution in the state of Alabama,” Coleman explained.

For human trafficking victims, Coleman has a bill that would make sure their photos are not exposed on the internet.

“Prostitution is illegal. That’s one thing," the lawmaker went on. "But I want to make sure victims are not being re-victimized.”

Giddens has worked with Coleman on the legislation and. He has started his own anti-human trafficking organization and is the Finance Director for the Alabama House Democratic Caucus.

“I’ve got to do something about it," he said. "Especially since I’m in a role in a political organization where I can really push for stronger legislation and do something for victims who can’t.”

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