Alabama bill would prevent public from seeing police body camera video

Alabama bill would prevent public from seeing police body camera video
Police body camera (Source: WAFF)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WAFF) - Members of law enforcement across the Tennessee Valley wear body cameras, but lawmakers in Alabama are currently debating a bill that would prevent you from ever seeing the video they record.

House Bill 373 outlines that body camera video would no longer be public or allowed to be viewed by anyone except for those in the video and those they want to see it.

The police chief here in Hollywood says he’s against the bill.

“My take on the bill is that it setting law enforcement back. We were one of the first agencies in the state to put cameras on officers, I think starting back in 2009 we started wearing body cameras. We did that because we realized that it’s important for us to be able to show the public what we do, how we handle things and not to hide things. The trust with the public and law enforcement seems to be at an all-time low,” said Hollywood Police Chief Jason Hepler.

Even the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is weighing in on House Bill 373.

“I’ve been doing this for 38 years. I can remember when I started, if an officer said it happened, then it probably happened. Nowadays people doubt that,” said Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen.

One way to prove who’s right when claims are made is by reviewing the law enforcer’s body camera where incidents are filmed.

Those we talked with say media being allowed to show you the film can prevent protests and riots.

“Body cameras certainly help us. Sometimes when we get accused of doing things that we haven’t done and we can prove that by video camera so I sometimes think that something we need to let them see,” said Harnen.

Public access to body camera video also holds officers accountable.

“Either it will help us or it will help the victims. We don’t always get everything right in law enforcement so I’m not going to pretend that the video will always make us look good but it also keeps us honest,” said Hepler.

Harnen and Hepler say it’s also important to know body cameras don’t always show the whole picture.

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