D.A.: Handling of bodycam video up to city

Published 3:00 am Friday, January 5, 2018

As protestors clamor for the release of body camera footage of a forceful arrest of a teen in Troy last month, District Attorney Tom Anderson says the decision is entirely up to the city.

“There’s nothing required in the law to maintain body cam video,” Anderson said. “There’s nothing in any circumstance that would require them to release it.”

The protests come after the Troy Police Department used physical force during the arrest of 17-year-old Ulysses Wilkerson III on the night before Christmas Eve. Police say they saw Wilkerson emerge from behind a closed building downtown and stopped to contact him, but he fled and then struggled with officers when they attempted to subdue him.

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Anderson previously confirmed that audio and video footage was captured by at least one body camera. Thursday he said that there are multiple videos of the incident.

Anderson said police in Alabama aren’t required by the law to wear body cameras at all, much less release the footage to the public, saying that the footage is not technically considered a public record.

Instead, Anderson said it is up to city ordinance and policies to set the standards for whether body cams are worn and how any footage from them is handled.

Further complicating this particular issue, Anderson said, is the fact that Wilkerson is a juvenile.

“That would cause some issues unless the family expressly waives it,” Anderson said. “There are laws that protect the confidentiality of these cases.”

The family identified Wilkerson within days of the incident, sharing photos of his injuries on social media that quickly went viral. They also identified him in a public statement Friday, Dec. 29, and called for the police to give them answers and release evidence in the case.

Kenneth Glasgow, an advocate that spoke on behalf of the family at a press conference last Friday, delivered an ultimatum to city and police department officials to release the body camera footage by Friday, January 5, or he would call a “national rally” to be held that would block U.S. Highway 231. Glasgow said Thursday that the rally would only be declared on Friday and would not be held immediately.

The Troy police department has handed over the investigation to the State Bureau of Investigation.

Troy Police Chief Randall Barr called the use of force “reasonable and justified.”

“Officers were able to apprehend the suspect on Madison Street, but he resisted arrest and refused to comply with commands from the officers to place his hands behind his back,” Barr said.

“The subject continued to struggle with officers and kept reaching toward his waistband as if he was attempting to access a weapon, all while repeatedly ignoring officers’ commands to stop resisting and give them his hands.”

Wilkerson was transported to Troy Regional Medical Center and then to UAB for treatment of his injuries, which his family said includes his left orbital socket being fractured in three places.

Barr said officers retraced the path taken during the pursuit and found a handgun lying on the ground, which has now been taken in as evidence.

Wilkerson was charged with obstruction of governmental operations and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors. Barr has confirmed that the charges have not been dropped.

SBI officer Heath Carpenter said in a release that SBI officials will not release any further information until the investigation is complete.

“In order to protect the juvenile involved and the integrity of the investigation, no additional information will be released by SBI until this investigation is closed,” he said. “The completed investigation will be turned over to Pike County District Attorney Tom Anderson for presentation to a grand jury.”