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Senate passes bill to create statewide database on law enforcement officers

All law enforcement agencies would be required to share information about all of their officers.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Editor's note: The attached video is about a different bill in the Alabama Legislature.

The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed legislation that would create a centralized database on all law enforcement officers and law enforcement applicants.

The legislation, Senate Bill 158, is sponsored by state Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham. Smitherman said that this bill creates a central database that will be maintained by the Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Board.

“Law enforcement agencies will have to refer complaints against all officers to APOST” for inclusion in the database, Smitherman said.

The bill gives immunity to former employers who share what they know about the candidates in good faith.

State Sen. Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville, said: “When I voted to let this out of committee, I said that I was doing so and then going back to talk to law enforcement officers in my community. I have, and they oppose this. That is why I am voting no.”

Givhan said that the police he spoke with say that this violates their rights under the Bill of Rights.

Smitherman said he is a constitutional law professor and “full consideration” was given to the constitutionality of everything in the bill.

State Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Montgomery, said, he thought the bill was a collaboration with ALEA. Smitherman responded that it was also a collaboration with APOST, the state sheriff’s association and the governor’s office.

“It does provide a measure of security for law enforcement agencies around the state,” Barfoot said.

Smitherman said that some smaller departments don’t always do all of the costly background checks that they need to do before hiring an officer. By having this database, they won’t have to. They can just go to the APOST database to get information on an officer’s history.

According to the synopsis:

“This bill would create a Law Enforcement Officer Employment Database for implementation and maintenance by the Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission. This bill would require law enforcement agencies to report certain complaints, disciplinary actions, and background information of law enforcement officers to the Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission. This bill would provide civil penalties for law enforcement agencies that fail to report certain activities of law enforcement officers. This bill would provide that information in the database is confidential and would provide criminal penalties for unauthorized access to the database.

“This bill would also require former employers of law enforcement officers to give full disclosure of an officer’s employment history in the event that another law enforcement agency in this state requests the information and would provide immunity for disclosures made in good faith. This bill would require that prior to employment, law enforcement agencies must complete and submit a full background check on law enforcement officers to the Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission. This bill would require the Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission to collect and maintain data related to the pre-employment check. This bill would outline the requirements for a pre-employment check and who is authorized to obtain the information. This bill would provide criminal penalties for the release or disclosure of any information received from the pre-employment check to any individual not authorized to receive it. This bill would also create civil immunity for any responsible agency that discloses information for the purposes for which it is authorized.”

The Alabama Senate passed SB158 by a vote of 21 to 8. The bill now goes to the Alabama House of Representatives for their consideration. Thursday was day 12 of the 2021 Legislative Session. 

This story was originally published in the Alabama Political Reporter.

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