MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — A fatal shooting involving police officers in Decatur Friday has raised questions about Alabama’s new body camera law.
The Decatur Police Chief has said the Department will not release the body camera footage involved in the death of Stephen Perkins while the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency investigates.
Under the new law that took effect this September, they don’t have to — though the sponsor of that legislation, Rep. Juandalynn Givan thinks it should be made public anyway.
“If they have nothing to hide, release the tape. They should do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Givan said.
Givan’s HB289 passed with bipartisan support in the 2023 legislative session. It sets up a process for the victim’s family and representatives to ask to see the footage by making a written request to the custodial law enforcement agency involved.
The agency can deny the request if they say it would harm an investigation.
Tommy Cook and Rodney Gordon with the Morgan County NAACP say the law doesn’t go far enough.
“Because if it wasn’t for those Ring cameras, we would not know the truth. The only thing we would know is what the police department said,” Cook said.
They say without the doorbell video that’s come out, the public would be in the dark. They think police videos should be made public soon after.
“It should be made public immediately so that the law enforcement agencies can be transparent,” Cook said.
But it’s not that easy, according to Rep. Givan, who spent two years working to get this bill considered in committee. She says she knows it’s not perfect, but it’s something to work from.
“Because now the conversation has to stay on the table. Whereas you’re not trying to get it on the table. It’s legislation now. What can we do to make this legislation better, but most importantly, what can we do working together,” Givan said.
Givan says next session she is considering amendments to this law. She says they would mostly deal with protecting witnesses or bystanders who may also appear in a body camera video.