A Madison County justice reform group is calling on the Huntsville Police Department to increase transparency, noting the department is a finalist in a national award given to entities that fight to undermine the public’s access to information.
Citizens Coalition for Justice Reform formed in 2020 in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests in Huntsville that summer that ended with the department and other law enforcement agencies shooting protesters with non-lethal ammunition and tear gas. The group has been calling for the department to increase transparency.
“Ten requests were put forth by residents of Madison County and to date, the Huntsville police department has primarily ignored these requests. The findings in these recent reports are of no surprise. It further validates observations we have highlighted for the last two years,” Angela Curry, the coalition’s lead liaison, said in a statement.
The Huntsville Police Department in July 2020, did release 73 pages of information to the coalition, according to AL.com. The department does score very low, however, in the Vera Institute of Justice’s Transparency Index, which tracks the release of data in law enforcement agencies across the U.S.
The New York-Based nonprofit research and policy organization’s index scores the Huntsville Police Department at a 26 out of 100, with 100 being the most transparent. The department scored zeros in six categories in the index, including release of information on instances of officers shooting firearms, use of force, arrests and traffic stops.
Investigative Reporters and Editors, a Missouri-based nonprofit that works to improve the quality of investigative journalism, placed the Huntsville Police Department as one of five on its finalist list for the Golden Padlock Award chosen for what the nonprofit says are “their extraordinary commitment to undermining the public’s right to know through delays, denials, court challenges and even surreptitious monitoring of journalists.”
The Huntsville Police Department was selected as a finalist for the award for what Investigative Reporters and Editors said was the department’s refusal to release bodycam footage in the 2018 shooting death of Jeff Parker in his home by Huntsville officer William Darby. A judge later order that footage released in August 2021, and Darby was convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
APR reached out to the Huntsville Police Department for comment.
“The Huntsville Police Department follows legal requirements established in the Alabama Open Records Act when responding to requests for release of police materials. These statutes were re-confirmed in 2021 by the Alabama Supreme Court. The City will continue to follow state law on open records requests,” Huntsville Police public information officer Sgt. Rosalind White said in a message to APR.