Bill would make OHP dash cam videos public records
A bill to remove Oklahoma Highway Patrol dash cam videos from the list of records exempted under the state Open Records Act was filed Monday by state Sen. Jim Wilson.
The Tahlequah Democrat said the legislation is in response to “controversial incidents in the state involving the suggestion of officers abusing their power.”
“Our public safety officers are public servants who work at the will of the public, so why shouldn’t the public have access to video of them doing their jobs? It seems to me that releasing these digital records will help dispel the suspicion that they have something to hide,” said Wilson in a press release Monday.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had incidents where officers have abused their power while on duty. There have also been instances where the media has exaggerated or provided inaccurate information about a case because they didn’t have the video and, therefore, didn’t have all the facts,” Wilson said.
The state Department of Public Safety’s audio and video recordings were public records until legislators exempted them in May 2005. (OKLA. STAT. tit. 51, § 24A.3(1)(h)(3))
Previous postings on this blog have further explained the history of that legislation: Oklahoma Highway Patrol dash cam videos should be public; OHP releases dashboard camera video; Are Oklahoma Highway Patrol dashboard camera videos a public record?
Wilson’s legislation, SB 1252, would make the dashboard camera videos public once again.
In explaining why the media and general public should have access to the videos, Wilson noted altercations involving Oklahoma Highway Patrolman Daniel Martin.
Wilson added, “Transparency in government offers the public performance measures and accountability which can be monitored and reported by the media.”
In June, this blog called on legislators to close the exemption and undo the damage they did in 2005.
Let your state legislators know that you support SB 1252 and that they should restore the public's right of access to these important government records.
Joey Senat, Ph.D.
OSU School of Journalism
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.