Are Oklahoma Highway Patrol dashboard camera videos a public record?

(Question received today from a reporter.)

No. Public access to the state Department of Public Safety’s audio and video recordings was curtailed by legislators in May 2005. (2005 O.S.L. 199, § 4 (adding OKLA. STAT. tit. 51, § 24A.3(1)(h)(1-3) (effective Nov. 1, 2005))

In March 2005, an Oklahoma County district judge had “barred the Oklahoma Highway Patrol from keeping videotapes of traffic arrests secret.” (Nolan Clay, Highway patrol ordered to stop withholding tapes, THE OKLAHOMAN, Mar. 3, 2005, at A6) An attorney specializing in drunken-driving cases had sued DPS after it refused to release the videotape of such an arrest without the driver’s written consent first.

“We continue to find that many officers make up evidence and exaggerate their testimony about the events. These tapes are extremely important to a citizen who is wrongly accused,” said attorney Stephen G. Fabian Jr.

Fabian had used the Open Records Act to gather hundreds of such videotapes from police departments and OHP.

The subsequent legislative changes to the Act exempted DPS’s audio and video recordings.

In June 2005, Fabian told me he would still be seeking – and likely receiving – the tapes in criminal proceedings via subpoenas.

(Telephone Interview with Stephen G. Fabian Jr., Senior Partner, Fabian & Associates Inc., P.C. (June 16, 2005))

Joey Senat, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
OSU School of Journalism and Broadcasting

“Mass Communication Law in Oklahoma”

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.