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Last updated March 5, 2020
No knock warrants
Alabama has not yet enacted a law eliminating the use of no-knock warrants. The state also has stand your ground laws, which could lead to violence in the execution of no knock warrants. Stand your ground laws allow people to use deadly force in self defense without first attempting to retreat.
Alabama has not yet enacted a law ending its participation in programs that facilitate the transfer of military weapons from the federal government to police departments. Alabama was suspended in 2014 from this program due to incomplete paperwork, but resumed activity in March 2015 following a federal audit.
Military style training
Alabama has not yet enacted a law refocusing training away from self-defense responses and towards community centered training like that offered by Blue Courage.
Alabama has not yet enacted a law requiring the recording and cataloging of SWAT team use.
Civil asset forfeiture
Alabama has not fully addressed the issue of civil asset forfeiture. Law enforcement keeps 100% of the proceeds from forfeited property. It only takes a court’s ‘reasonable satisfaction’ that property is related to criminal activity to validate seizure. The burden of proof falls on the defendant (they have to demonstrate that they are innocent).
Alabama has not yet enacted a law ending quotas for low-level arrests.
Cost of misconduct
Alabama has not yet enacted a law requiring police departments (not state general funds) to cover the cost of misconduct.
Alabama has not yet enacted a law decriminalizing minor offenses that do not threaten public safety such as spitting and loitering. Disorderly conduct charges in Alabama (which disturbing the peace would fall under) can incur fines of up to $500 and/or several months in jail. In 2019 HB 96, a bill that would have reduced the penalty for marijuana possession to a fine was voted down. SB 165, a 2020 bill legalizing marijuana, passed in the Senate but died in the House.
Objective justification for stops
Alabama has not yet enacted a law requiring officers to establish objective justification for making a stop (i.e. not simply for furtive movement, suspicious activity, or matching a generalized description). Alabama code section 15-5-30 is a stop and identify law that allows officers to stop and question individuals who they suspect have committed, are planning to commit, or are about to commit a crime. Additionally, people in Alabama who have 3 felonies are required to carry a “felon card” as a special piece identification.
Reporting stop details
Alabama has not yet enacted a law requiring comprehensive reporting of police stops (noting location, race, gender, whether force was used and whether a firearm was found). The Alabama Open Records Act theoretically allows the public to access public police records such as disciplinary records and misconduct, but the implementation is poor.
Reckless civil rights violation
Alabama has not yet enacted a law lowering the prosecution requirement from ‘willful’ to ‘reckless’ deprivation of another’s rights. It relies mostly on federal law to handle civil rights violations and only has further legislation on age discrimination.
Alabama has not yet enacted a law institutionalizing an independent prosecutor within the state’s Department of Justice for instances of police misconduct.
Alabama has not yet enacted a law ending qualified immunity. A high profile case in June 2020 was immediately dismissed because of qualified immunity, despite the fact that the plaintiff was coerced into taking part in a sting operation that resulted in the plaintiff being shot 5 times.
Mental health response
Alabama has not yet enacted a law creating and funding a mental health task force available to respond to crisis calls (in lieu of police). Locally, Huntsville law enforcement participate in Crisis Intervention Team training programs to train police in mental heath crisis response and encourage officers to take mentally ill individuals to hospitals, not jails
Education, Housing, Community Health Resources
It is important to note that policing does not address the roots of social disadvantage and barriers to (economic) opportunity that often lead to crime. Nor should police be burdened with that responsibility.
Without access to quality resources in healthcare, education, and housing, our cities, neighborhoods, and families will continue to suffer. We should instead reassess the budgets of the state government and reinvest in the services that matter most.
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