Mayors from the five biggest cities in Alabama met Monday, January 8, in Mobile, to discuss public safety, and because FOX10 News is committed to tracking transparency from government leaders, we pressed the mayors about the issue of police body camera video.
While the city of Mobile has continued to block our requests for copies of body camera video, mayors from other major cities in the state said they have no problems with releasing it.
"It's really, in many cases, helped us to be able to get the information out in the open, because a lot of times when you have a situation involving law-enforcement, myth replaces fact, but when you have body cameras, they provide the facts in real time," explained Tuscaloosa's Mayor Walter Maddox during a news conference with the other "Big 5" mayors.
Maddox said body camera video has made an important impact on his city, and his police department has released body camera video a number of times over the last few years.
In fact, in 2015, his department released video of a controversial incident where his officers were accused of excessive use of force at an apartment complex.
"We want to get that video out there in a timely fashion, because if we've done something wrong, we're going to own it, and we are going to work to improve it," said Maddox.
Mayor Todd Strange, of Montgomery, felt the same.
"I think Mayor Maddox hit the nail on the head about our desire to release it," said Strange.
In Huntsville, the mayor said police have had body cameras for about two years, and have released video of an incident in question only once.
"We have a firm policy in our city, that any request for information for body cams has to be approved by the city attorney, approved by the police chief, and that approved by administration, and of all those approve it, then it's released," said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.
The Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, and Montgomery mayors all voiced similar opinions in saying as long as the video does not impede an investigation, it's important for it to be open to the public.
"You can't be selective about when you're going to be transparent," said Strange.
However, there is a different mentality in the city of Mobile, as city leaders have refused to release body camera video of a controversial incident back in 2016, where a group of McGill students were pepper-sprayed by officers while painting the cannon after their big win against Murphy High School.
Even though the police chief apologized for the incident, city leaders have continued to block requests for the body camera video.
So, FOX10 News has taken the issue to court, and we'll let you know as soon as the judge issues an opinion.
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