New bill aims to limit release of law enforcement body, dash cam video

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WKRG) — A bill introduced in the Alabama House of Representatives this week puts harsher restrictions on the release of police and deputy body camera video.

“Recordings are not public records under 9 Section 36-12-40, Code of Alabama 1975, and shall not be 10 considered personnel records under state law,” the proposal reads.

“I’m Just trying to come up with something consistent across the state to know what everyone can expect across the state,” said Rep. Shane Stringer (R-102), one of the lawmakers who introduced the bill.

The bill goes on to say such footage would only be released to people directly involved in the incident recorded. There are restrictions on that release as well. Per the proposal, video can only be released to a person who is seen or heard on the recording or a personal representative of someone seen or heard on the recording. A representative can only be put in place if the person seen in the recording is a minor, dead, or otherwise incapacitated.

“There’s reason we want to protect certain aspects and areas like witnesses and sensitive material,” Rep. Stringer told News 5 over the phone. News 5 asked about how this could prevent credible newsrooms from getting pertinent information about officer-involved shootings and other crimes, as well as things like government officials being arrested. “That’s one thing I’ve learned up here, you have to be careful about unintended consequences,” said Rep. Stringer.

Additionally, the bill states it is up to law enforcement’s discretion to release only what is “relevant to the person’s request.” When the video is released, the person receiving it is not allowed to record or copy the recording.

The proposed legislation would also give law enforcement the option to not release the footage at all. That is not currently the case, due to such body and dash camera recordings being deemed public record.

Individuals requesting the video may file for a circuit court review of the video if law enforcement denies the release, or takes too long to respond.

Outside of release to anyone involved in the recording, law enforcement shall only release the video following a court order, according to the bill.

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