Enid officials won't identify two police officers placed on administrative leave because of homicide investigation

Enid officials won't tell the public which two police officers are under investigation because of how a homicide investigation was handled, the
Enid News & Eagle and The Oklahoman reported this week.

The two officers are on paid administrative leave, the newspapers reported.

The News & Eagle noted that the public statement it received from police officials said the officers were “suspended with pay.”

The public might never know the names of the officers.

A recent attorney general opinion said a public agency may keep secret the names of employees placed on paid administrative leave if, under the agency’s personnel policies, that action doesn’t constitute “a ‘final’ or ‘disciplinary’ action, nor a ‘final disciplinary action resulting in loss of pay, suspension, demotion, or termination.’” (
2009 OK AG 33)

The opinion came about after Oklahoma City officials refused to identify an employee placed on paid administrative leave during an investigation into the possible misuse of a federal grant.

Attorney General Drew Edmondson said once the investigation is complete and a final disciplinary action occurs, “the record(s) indicating that action must be must be available for public inspection and copying."

The Oklahoma Open Records Act makes public "any final disciplinary action resulting in loss of pay, suspension, demotion of position, or termination." (OKLA. STAT. tit. 51, § 24.A(7))

It permits, but does not require, public bodies to keep confidential the personnel records related to "internal personnel investigations including examination and selection material for employment, hiring, appointment, promotion, demotion, discipline, or resignation."

Enid police Capt. Jack Morris told The Oklahoman, "There is no disciplinary action taking place, and this is normal protocol.”

The News & Eagle reported that Enid City Attorney Andrea Chism disavowed any connection to the press release and called the use of the word suspension unfortunate.

According to both newspapers, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation will conduct a criminal investigation into the officers' actions. An administrative investigation by the police department would follow.

“I’m not releasing the names until a decision is made on criminal actions or disciplinary action requiring the release of open records,”
Enid Police Chief Rick West told the News & Eagle.

Update: "Attorney for Grassino, Nichols comes forward with identities," Enid News & Eagle, Dec. 22, 2009.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
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.