Decatur community reacts to bodycam bill being voted down

DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — A bill requiring law enforcement to make police bodycam footage public record was voted down Wednesday by lawmakers, a decision met with disappointment among supporters of the bill.

“We were hoping for a small victory today,” Nick Perkins said.

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Following the Decatur Police shooting death of his brother Stephen Perkins in September of last year, Perkins says it took months for his family to see the video.

However, Perkins said hope is not lost after lawmakers voted the bill down that would’ve made body cam video public record and required the footage to be released to families within 30 days.

He said waiting to see the video of his brother being killed by police was difficult on his family.

“All you can do is go on a narrative that has been put out, and you don’t know what to believe that’s very confusing it puts you in a different head space you have unanswered questions,” Perkins said.

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The new legislation would’ve placed the decision in the hands of a judge to release the footage even after law enforcement denied access to it such as in the Perkins family case.

“It would at least be the catalyst to help families get to a point where they can start the healing process,” Perkins told News 19. “At least they know what went on with their loved one, that’s just a bad feeling to have them gone in the blink of an eye and nobody knows what happened to them.”

Alabama State Senator Merika Coleman (D-Birmingham) sponsored the bill that was also known as the “Jawan Dallas and Steve Perkins Act”. The naming references two men, Dallas in Mobile, and Perkins in Decatur who were both killed by police.

Coleman says it’s about giving families a chance to see things for what they are and was hoping that passing it would provide the truth for families and law enforcement.

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“Let’s expose who the bad actors are, but protect the folks who are actually doing their job,” Coleman said. “This is not an indictment on police, I believe there is a role for police in society to protect and serve and as long as they are doing that, let’s highlight that.”

Since Perkins was killed by police, discussions surrounding the release of body cam footage have been placed into the public spotlight.

Community members in Decatur like Danny Saafiyah were also disappointed to see the bill voted down and explained why he felt it was needed. He says ongoing efforts for the bill to become a reality are required.

“When you say transparency, what you really mean is truth,” Saafiyah said. “What a video shows is you is the truth, it shows you what happened, when it happened, and how it happened.”

Senator Coleman is aiming to reintroduce the bill in 2025 and hopes to have it signed into law by the end of next year’s legislative session.

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