Two Huntsville City Council members working to release body cam footage to public

Published: Jun. 7, 2021 at 7:43 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Two Huntsville City Council members are pushing for more transparency within the police department.

Councilman Bill Kling and Councilman John Meredith are working on a proposal requiring Huntsville Police Department body camera footage to be released to the public. A few months ago, Councilman Kling made his own recommendations on how to improve the police department, and one of the ideas on that list was this topic.

Kling said the police department is good, but it can be better.

”I can see something being worked out where once all the legal court cases are over with and we have the consent of the family that it will be posted on the internet where if someone is on the internet they can hop on over to the city of Huntsville website and be able to access that body cam footage,” said Councilman Kling.

Councilman Kling said he hopes to bring this before the city council before the month is out.

“As a former news reporter, I like getting things out in the open, and at the same time when you are providing a service to the public and you hear them say we want body cam footage to be released you take a look at it and you say how can we get this done,” Councilman Kling said. “Councilman Meredith was really enthused about this and got me motivated. So he and I are working on it together.”

Councilman Meredith said he believes when body cams came about it was meant to bring accountability. He feels it’s only right the community gets to see it, especially because taxpayers pay for it.

“When it was sold to the city or America at large it was an accountability question,” Councilman Meredith said. “Where the citizens in any community had transparency from law enforcement. America bought into that wholeheartedly. Since we’ve had bodycam footage it’s been very hard to access it.”

He said it’s been very hard for the public to get ahold of the footage, but he hopes to change that here in Huntsville.

“Flash forward to the George Floyd incident, and some of the issues that happened here locally its time we codify the ability for the community to get some of that transparency that was promised to them when bodycams were initially funded,” Councilman Meredith said.

Angela Curry with the Citizens Coalition for Justice Reform said this is something her group has fought for a long time. She said it’s good to know someone is listening.

“It reaffirms that there are elected officials that actually value their role and take responsibility to the citizens,” Curry said. “We hope that it is comprehensive, objective, that it has timelines, and made widely available and widely known to the public because this is the process,” Curry said.

The details in the proposal still need to be ironed out, according to Meredith.

WAFF 48 asked Councilman Kling if the body camera footage would be released in its entirety, and his response was that he didn’t see why not. Councilman Meredith said this is a work in progress.

“I’m collaborative. I want this vetting far and wide and I want the support from everyone including law enforcement,” Councilman Meredith said. “Ultimately we will not compromise on the public being able to see the footage but there may not be a reason to see all of it.”

Councilman Meredith said he wants the support of the public and city leaders on this proposal.

“We would like the public to take a look at it, chime in on, and we will add things into it, take out of it, so when it comes to a vote we have the majority,” Meredith said.

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