Mobile police have been using body cameras for over two years and so far we have not seen any of that footage. After multiple requests, the city is now going to the state level for policy recommendations.
Mobile City council members have agreed to ask the attorney general’s office for an opinion when it comes to releasing body cam video–specifically video that relates to an ongoing investigation involving minors.
“Cause what you’re doing is, you’re trying to make sure that you are transparent, at least in our situation we are, but we also have to make sure that we protect the rights of citizens,” says Mayor Sandy Stimpson.
But in the past, MPD has released video of minors, but it was surveillance video, not body cam video. Take for instance the shooting at Wynnsong Theater. Public Safety Director James Barber says it’s all about balancing privacy rights and the interest of the public’s safety.
“If we’re trying to identify shooters at the Wynnsong Theater, certainly releasing video, in my opinion, serves a public safety interest. And so again, that’s the policy or the standard that we currently are using,” says Barber.
And when the lines get blurred, the city says, they want to be able to err on the side of caution.
“If we get an attorney general’s opinion, then that’s something we can stand on from a legal perspective is, that these are the guard rails that we need to operate in,” says Stimpson.
Again, MPD has been using body cams for two years. We’ve requested video multiple times and have received nothing. So why have they waited so long to act?
“We had been hopeful that this opinion was going to be requested by the District Attorney and for some reason, her determination was she chose not to do that, and so there was a gap in there of thinking that was possibly going to be done, and before we actually realized that it was not, so that had something to do with the gap,” says Stimpson.
In terms of policy for when they can release video not involving minors and other situations, Mayor Stimpson says he wants to sit down and discuss all that with the city attorney.