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Co-sponsor threatens to kill police body cam bill

BY CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said Thursday he would try to kill a police body camera bill that lists him as a co-sponsor.

“People have a right to see this police footage so this bill would be violating people’s First Amendment rights,” Rogers told Alabama Daily News.

“I am determined to kill this bill and I will do everything in my power to kill the bill.”

Bill sponsor Rep. Juandalynn Givan said an error in the legislation that would regulate access to police body camera and dash cam footage has caused confusion and will be corrected in the upcoming session. Givan, D-Birmingham, said House Bill 36 is meant to increase the public’s access to police footage.

But as Alabama Daily News reported earlier this week, the bill says police recording would not be public record.

Givan said that language is an error and that she plans on amending the bill.

“I’ve already prepared the amendment and everything,” Givan said. “When I sent the bill back up and whoever packaged the bill, then an error was made. This just happens sometimes and that’s why we have to go in and make amendments to bills all the time. It was just an error.”

Givan on Thursday said she explained the mistake to Rogers.

House Bill 36 would provide a process for individuals or their families to obtain body camera and dash camera videos from law enforcement and also establish a way to contest a refusal by law enforcement to release a police recording.

“This is a victim’s bill, we want transparency and we want people to be able to view the footage and to be able to treat this like public record,” Givan said.

Brad English, the governmental affairs director for the Alabama Press Association, told Alabama Daily News that when he first read the bill he also thought the language was incorrect and opposite of what the bill was trying to accomplish.

English said that the association supports any legislation to keep public records public and that they planned on addressing police body camera footage records in future legislative sessions.

“It’s something we’re trying to address, probably not this session, but we want to get the conversation started this session,” English said. “But as it stands now any police agency whether its a sheriff’s department or city police, and any element of the investigation, whether it includes body cam footage or whatever it is, once they turn it over to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, it takes a judge’s order for it to be released.”

Givan said that this bill was in response to the shooting death by police of Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr. at Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover. Attorney General Steve Marshall earlier this month said the officer, who has not been identified, will not be charged. The Attorney General’s office released footage of the incident from the mall’s security cameras, but no police body-camera footage was included.

Thirty-four states have laws regulating law enforcement body cameras. Alabama does not.

The legislative session starts March 5.

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