Lawmaker hopes to increase access to law enforcement recordings despite “error” in proposed bill

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — A bill that has been filed ahead of the upcoming Alabama legislative session regarding law enforcement audio, visual recordings and who can access those recordings. 

Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D) sponsored HB 36 and told CBS 42 she did so with families in mind, following the death of Emantic “E.J.” Bradford, Jr. last year. A Hoover police officer shot and killed Bradford on Thanksgiving Day while the officers were responding to another shooting at the Riverchase Galleria mall. Weeks of protests were organized calling for the release of video evidence in the case. 

Currently, the first line of the bill’s synopsis states: “This bill would provide that recordings made by law enforcement agencies are not public records.”

That statement caused alarm for some members of the community, including the president of the Alabama Broadcasters Association. CBS 42 reached out to Rep. Givan about the statement. 

“That’s going to be amended, that is some – for whatever reason – that is not correct,” Givan said. “That may have just been an error. Every now and then we make a mistake in the printing of legislation. It is [intended] to make it a public record, to allow access or to allow a level of greater access to the records.”

Currently, the bill does not outline a process for media outlets to request law enforcement recordings. 

“I haven’t had an opportunity to speak with any of the represenatives who are introducing this bill and would welcome that opportunity,” Sharon Tinsley, president of the Alabama Broadcasters Association, said. 

Regarding disclosure of recordings, the bill states the following in Section 3 (b):

“The custodial law enforcement agency may only disclose a recording to the following:

(1) A person whose image or voice is in the recording. 

(2) A personal representative of an adult person whose image or voice is in the recording if the adult person has consented to the disclosure. 

(3) A personal represenatitve of a minor or of an adult person under lawful guardianship whose image or voice is in the recording. 

(4) A personal representative of a deceased person whose image or voice is in the recording. 

(5) A personal representative of an adult person who is incapacitated and unable to provide consent to disclosure.

In section 3 (c) the bill states: “When disclosing the recording, the law enforcement agency shall disclose only those portions of the recording that are relevant to the request of the person.” A person who receives disclosure pursuant to this act may not record or copy the recording.”

The bill also outlines a petition process. 

The last name of Rep. John Rogers is listed on the bill, but on Thursday, he told CBS 42 that was news to him. 

“I really had no idea it was on there,” Rogers said. 

Rep. Givan told CBS 42 she plans to re-visit a previous conversation she said she had with Rep. Rogers  about the bill. Rep Rogers told CBS 42 he would be in support of the bill if it is amended to make recordings public, but he anticipates the current wording of the bill would make it “dead on arrival.”

The bill is scheduled for its first reading on March 5 before the Public Safety and Homeland Security committee. 

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