Judge orders Mobile police to release body cam video of pepper spray incident

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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) — Meredith Corporation, the owner of WALA FOX10 News, has just received word that it has won a lawsuit in pursuit for transparency from the city of Mobile, which means the city’s police department will be required to release police body camera video of a particular incident in 2016, in which McGill-Toolen High School students were pepper-sprayed by a Mobile Police officer while painting the cannon at the Loop in midtown Mobile after a football game.

The order was signed by Judge Rick Stout in Mobile County Circuit Court on August 13, and was filed at 4:53 p.m.

The four-page document says the city of Mobile has 14 days to release the video of the incident, and that the city is responsible for blurring faces of any juveniles in the video.

Shortly after the incident occurred in 2016, then Police Chief James Barber apologized for his officer’s actions the night the students were pepper-sprayed, but refused to release the body camera video, which would allow the public an opportunity to see exactly what happened.

However, in 14 days or less, the public should know how those officers behaved that night, thanks to FOX10 News’ incessant pursuit of transparency from city officials.

“Basically means it’s a win for the people of Alabama,” said FOX10 News Director Scott Flannigan. “Two years ago we sat in front of Chief Barber and City Attorney Ricardo Woods, talked about it, and we explained our reasoning why we felt this video was public document, and the city, protecting their best interest, said, ‘we’re not going to release the video.’ But, at the end, Barber said, ‘you know what, if a judge says I need to hand it over, I will do what’s right.’ So now is the time, the judge has issued an opinion, now they need to do what they should’ve done two years ago.”

Judge Stout made it clear the ruling should not serve as a precedent for all body camera videos to be released. The judge said each video will have to be assessed on a case by case basis, because there are certain exemptions in the public records law.

Even still, Flannigan said the ruling is a big win for the public.

“WALA FOX10 knows that the transparency of this case was very important, we knew that the truth had to be told, and our job is to hold the powerful accountable,” said Flannigan.

The city still has the option to appeal the ruling.

FOX10 News reached out to Public Safety Director James Barber, who said he will comment about the ruling on Tuesday.

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