HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A bill aimed at protecting the badge has taken a step forward in Alabama legislature.
House Bill 17 would make it to where officers could get permission on the state level instead of having to go through the federal government to use wire taping technology in drug trafficking investigations.
The bill is named after the STAC Agent, Billy Clardy III.
Officer Clardy lost his life in December of 2019 while on the scene of an drug investigation in Huntsville.
Sponsors of this bill believe better access to wire tapping technology could protect officers in similar situations in the future.
“What if they had this tool, could they have done the investigation through these means rather than setting up a very volatile undercover operation that led to his death,” Representative Rex Reynolds said.
State Representative Rex Reynolds says police officers would be able to wire tap into drug trafficking suspects only after obtaining an affidavit.
“They would propose an affidavit, that would go through the SBI [State Bureau of Investigations] and through ALEA. The secretary of ALEA would sign off on that affidavit then it would be reviewed by the attorney general’s office, and if it’s signed off there then it comes back to that jurisdiction, to a judge for final signature,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds says those layers of protection ensure enough checks and balances are in place.
“And then there’s safeguards on the backside to ensure there’s no abuse by this. Literally there will be one machine. These machines cost $650,000 and ALEA would house that and protect it within their inventory,” Reynolds said.
Alabama police officers can use wire tapping now, but they have to get permission from the federal government first.
President of the Fraternal Order of Police’s Huntsville and Madison County chapter, Donny Shaw says this bill would speed up that process.
“Mississippi is already doing this. They’ve had it for awhile, and forty four other states.”
That’s so they can get drugs off the streets sooner.
“You can ultimately get the warrants and make the arrests and take the drug traffickers and the drugs themselves off the street,” Shaw said.
However, some are opposed to the bill due to concerns surrounding peoples’ privacy.
Reynolds says there are safeguards for that too.
“The only reason it can be activated is when an affidavit is signed and in place, and then there are controlled measures within that device that show when investigators turn that device on from when they turn it off,” Reynolds said.
The bill passed the House committee Wednesday. Reynolds tells us he hopes to see it on the agenda for a House vote next week. Then it would head to the Senate.