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Bill to allow police to arrest shoplifters in stores is carried over in committee

By Brandon Moseley 
Alabama Political Reporter

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to carry over a bill that would have made it easier and quicker for police to arrest shoplifters at last weeks committee meeting.

Senate Bill 58 is sponsored by state Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville.

Chambliss said that the Prattville Police Department has had some difficulty with shoplifting.  Currently when store security sees someone acting suspiciously the police have to wait until they leave the store in order to make an arrest. Sometimes the police have to wait 15, 20, or 30 minutes. Most stores have video.  This bill would allow the officer to make arrest in the store.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is chaired by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, who had some concerns about the fines imposed by the legislation.

Chambliss defended his bill and said that the fines were in line.

“I have got some concerns with the bill too and I have never been accused of being soft on crime,” Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, said. “Your bill is going way too far.  You are creating a crime.”

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Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said, “I know you mean well.  The third thing in this, I want people to start opening up their mind that the world that we live in is both black and white.”

“This is just a stronger case of why we got to pass a profiling bill,” Smitherman said.

Smitherman said that he went into a Birmingham area pharmacy in his jogging clothes and the store manager thought that he was a thief because he picked up some hair oil for his shoes.  “The little man followed me around.”

Smitherman said that people should not be arrested, “Just because somebody makes a judgement.”

Smitherman, who is African-American, said “90 percent of the folks that they are going to snatch up look like me.”

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, made a motion that the bill be carried over.

The motion carried and SB58 appears to be dead for this session.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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