MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The Mobile Police Department is discussing protocols after two deadly officer-involved shootings. The shootings have reignited the debate on things like body cameras and no-knock warrants.
It’s a discussion that started last June during WKRG’s “The Talk,” addressing a national concern about race relations and law enforcement reforms.
“A lot of calling for police reform. Expanding policy and procedure to include more people on body cameras. So, we began an equity initiative around July 2020,” said James Barber, Executive Director of Public Safety.
Nearly nine months later those revised policies and procedures were put to the test.
On Jan. 26, in Tillman’s Corner, an officer shot Edward Bittner twice and killed him. After police say he ran from them following a traffic stop and pulled out a knife as officers tried to tase him.
Nine days later, 18-year-old Treyh Webster was shot and killed as swat officers served warrants at a home on Lakeview Drive.
In each shooting, the officer who used deadly force was not wearing a body camera.
“We tried to balance it by conducting a proper investigation and looking into whether or not the officer actually intentionally or intended to deceive the public by what could potentially be on his body camera,” said Chief Lawrence Battiste.
Chief Battiste tells WKRG News 5’s Amber Grigley it is the protocol that all sworn personnel in field operations are required to wear a body cam.
“Even if we put a body cam on everybody, you don’t necessarily guarantee you’re going to capture everything that takes place,” said Chief Battiste.
In the shooting in Tillman’s Corner, the officers were chasing the suspect — which presents a problem.
“If the officer is in foot pursuit they come off,” Chief Battiste said.
In the shooting on Lakeview Drive, the SWAT officers, as a unit, did not have body cams.
“SWAT will be issued body cam as we move forward,” Battiste said.
And just like body cameras, no-knock warrants have been a big talking point.
“I don’t know if Alabama has banned them, I just know that we don’t seek them,” Barber said.
“If they would have knocked on the door we would have answered,” said Georgette Sons, Treyh Webster’s Mom.
The heartbroken mother of Webster, the suspect killed on Lakeview Drive, took issue with the way police entered the home.
“There are two types of no-knocks. One they never knock, they never announce. That’s common in both of these situations. And one is called a self-entry where you unlock the door or pick the lock on the door and you make your entry very quietly until you get close to whoever that target of that warrant is,” Barber said.
Barber said what they used in this situation was a dynamic entry while conducting an anytime warrant, where they can serve a warrant at any time of the day.
“They try to move in very quickly and overwhelm whoever it is before they can arm themselves. In the situation we had last week, we were dealing with a pit bull and multiple people in the house, and it was very difficult to get control before someone got ahold of a weapon, and that’s what we saw happen,” Barber said.
So back to where we started — where do we go from here?
“As an agency, we’re going to accept responsibility for where we can make improvements, but I need those people that are in the community that was impacted, or it impacted their life is to accept their role and their responsibility for what happened here. We were where we were at in both cases for a reason,” Chief Battiste said.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson recently approved to outfit all sworn officers with body cameras, although it is not in the budget. Local law enforcement agencies are seeking legislation to provide some type of guidance on when it’s appropriate to release body cam video.