WAAY I-Team: Some North Alabama law enforcement agencies release body camera video

Protesters gathered Friday and called for Madison Police to release the video in the Planet Fitness shooting that involved officers.

Posted: Nov 8, 2019 6:29 PM
Updated: Nov 8, 2019 7:17 PM

Friday, a small group in Madison gathered in peaceful protest across the street from City Hall.

It came the day after the Madison County Sheriff's Office completed its investigation into the Madison Police shooting of Dana Fletcher.

Organizers announced it about three hours after the Madison County Sheriff's Office held a news conference to share its findings on the Oct. 27 shooting. They said he pointed a gun at officers. At the center of Friday's protest was the call for transparency.

Almost two weeks after the shooting, there are two very different stories of what happened. One from police and another from Fletcher's wife. Body camera video police don't have to release and refuse to release tell the true story.

Stephanie Strong said she came out to protest on Friday because she's unhappy Madison Police refuse to release body camera footage of them shooting Dana Fletcher outside the Planet Fitness almost two weeks ago.

"Deescalate, don’t violate, Madison City Police release the body cam now," is what Strong's sign read at the protest.

“This whole thing is about secrecy. It continues to drive a wedge between marginalized communities and law enforcement," she said.

While Alabama state law lets law enforcement keep body camera video private, the Marshall County sheriff's office, Athens Police Department and the Limestone County Sheriff's Office have all released body camera video in the past five years.

Limestone County sheriffs deputies wear body cameras while out on patrol and while interacting with the community. When they return to their shift they attach them to a docking station where it transfers video to the server

Spokesman Stephen Young says the sheriff’s office releases video to more easily explain a situation. The office most recently released this body camera video in January of this year.

"They say a picture is worth a thousand words and to type up a long press release versus to give a short clip of what transpired," he said.

Young shared the decision to release video or withhold video is something the sheriff's office takes seriously because it could hurt an investigation.

"That is not a decision you make in the spur of the moment just so everyone can have all the information right away. The important thing is that we determine what really happened," he said.

Young says its important to remember these cameras are placed on deputies chests and while the video can help explain some situations it could add more confusion.

“90-95 percent of the time they don’t show everything on their own. Whether it is obstruction or an incident or where the body camera falls off, anytime you have to put your hands in front of the camera you’re going to have an obstruction," he explained.

Strong believes some video is better than none.

"They say they have come to a conclusion but only the law enforcement and agencies doing the investigation are privy to that information and that’s wrong," she said.

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