House passes bill removing exemption for Oklahoma Highway Patrol dash-cam recordings

A bill to make all law enforcement recordings public records passed the state House by a 67-13 vote on Wednesday. HB 2676, sponsored by Ken Walker, R-Tulsa, would remove an Open Records Act exemption for Oklahoma Highway Patrol dash-cam recordings. The bill is co-authored by two Democrats: Kevin Mathews of Tulsa and Chuck Hoskin of Vinita.

A similar bill in the Senate would remove the OHP exemption and add audio and video from all law enforcement vehicles and officers to the list of records that must be made public.

Under SB 1513, however, law enforcement agencies would be allowed to “redact or obscure specific portions of the recording which depict the death of a person or a dead body, depict any person who is nude or identify minors under the age of sixteen (16) years.”

Agencies also could “redact or obscure specific portions of … recordings depicting law enforcement officers who become subject to internal investigation by the law enforcement agency….”  The full recording would become public “at the conclusion of the investigation and disciplinary process.”

That bill, sponsored by Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, passed the Senate Committee on Rules by a 15-1 vote on Feb. 12.

The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals ruled in May that a police dash cam video of a DUI arrest contained facts concerning the arrest and therefore was public under the state Open Records Act.

The state Department of Public Safety’s audio and video recordings, including those of OHP, were public records until legislators exempted them in 2005 at the request of DPS and the Highway Patrol. (OKLA. STAT. tit. 51, § 24A.3(1)(h)(3))

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