Bill making OHP recordings public headed to governor

A bill removing the Open Records Act exemption for Oklahoma Highway Patrol recordings is headed to Gov. Mary Fallin after the state House approved it today by vote of 76 to 6.

 House Bill 2676 also adds audio and video recordings from dashboard and lapel cameras to the list of records that all law enforcement agencies must make available for inspection and copying.

The bill allows those agencies to “redact or obscure specific portions of the recording” that depict or reveal:

  • The death of a person or a dead body,
  • Any person who is nude,
  • Identify minors under the age of 16, or
  • Law enforcement officers ”who become subject to internal investigation by the law enforcement agency until the law enforcement agency concludes the investigation.” The unedited recording would become available at the end of the “investigation and disciplinary process” or earlier if the “investigation and disciplinary process
    lasts for an unreasonable amount of time.” The bill doesn’t define “unreasonable amount of time.”

Voting against the bill were Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha; Tommy Hardin, R-Madill; Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City; Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow; Wade Rousselot, D-Okay; and Todd Thomsen, R-Ada. Another 19 representatives did not vote.

In May, a state appellate court ruling made public the dashboard camera video and audio of arrests by all law enforcement agencies other than the OHP.

OHP audio and video recordings were public records until legislators exempted them in 2005 at the request of Department of Public Safety and the Highway Patrol. (OKLA. STAT. tit. 51, § 24A.3(1)(h)(3)) That came after an Oklahoma County district judge that year had barred OHP from keeping secret the videotapes of traffic arrests.

Legislation in 2010 and 2011 to  remove OHP’s exemption failed after the bills became intertwined with attempts to exempt government employees’ identification numbers and birth dates.

This year, DPS and OHP officials supported removing the exemption.

Passage of the bill was due to the hard work of Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City; Rep. Ken Walker, R-Tulsa; Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie; and Mark Thomas, an FOI Oklahoma Inc. board member and executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association.

 

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications

 

4 thoughts on “Bill making OHP recordings public headed to governor

    • Check the “76 to 6” hyperlink. Looks like a lot of the Dems weren’t there for the vote, and one Dem voted against it.

        • Ah. I thought the same thing.

          This bill is probably just a means for her and the other Repubs to score back the political points they lost for Fallin’s ongoing “executive priviledge” debacle. I doubt a Dem ever heard of it before it was introduced. But the bill is a step in the right direction, so I guess we can be thankful for that.

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