Huntsville, AL (WHNT) — A weekend arrest caught on camera has raised many concerns. The woman who recorded it said she questions the force used by the Huntsville police officers who made the arrest.
The Huntsville Police Department released a statement saying the viral clip only shows 44 seconds of what happened during the arrest. They said body camera footage captured eight minutes.
But they also said because it’s an active criminal investigation, they won’t release the video to the public. The man arrested was charged with public intoxication.
Longtime attorney Mark McDaniel said even after a case is closed, sometimes it can still be hard to get police body camera footage.
He said if the Huntsville Police Department wanted to release the eight minutes of video from the officers’ body cameras they could.
“If something happened in our community, and they wanted to get out in front of it or something, they could. If they wanted to get it out there themselves, there’s nothing that precludes them from putting it out there,” Attorney Mark McDaniel explained.
Under Alabama statute, McDaniel concludes the Huntsville Police Department does not have to release any evidence to the public, as it relates to a criminal case. That includes this arrest caught on video.
“Under the law in Alabama these are not public records, and they would be considered privileged communication. So bottom line is they would not be accessible to the public,” McDaniel said.
In section 12-21-3.1 of Alabama code, law enforcement investigative reports, records, field notes, witness statements, and other investigative writings or recordings are privileged communications protected from disclosure.
There is a way to possibly get a copy. “The legislatures looks at disfavor with any judge doing it, but you can do it under extraordinary circumstance in a civil manner. Somebody could subpoena, but would have to get a court order,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel said evidence like police body cameras can possibly be easier for the public to see after a case is over, but it can still be difficult.
“There could still be some arguments there, if there’s any possibility of civil action brought. There might be some ways they would still try hold on to it,” McDaniel explained.
McDaniel said a lot of states have similar statutes to Alabama.
McDaniel said releasing information like police body camera footage could potentially make it harder to get a jury panel. He said the more information out there, the more likely it is a defense attorney would ask for a change of venue.
Since purchasing and deploying the body cameras in 2016, the Huntsville Police Department has refused to release any video captured by them to WHNT News 19.