Norman police refuse to allow copying of Mixon video
Norman city officials have conceded that the surveillance video of an incident involving University of Oklahoma freshman running back Joe Mixon is a public record under the Oklahoma Open Records Act. Norman police will show the video to reporters on Thursday but won't allow them to record it. Norman officials also are refusing to provide copies of the video.
Their reasoning is that under the current Open Records Act, the public is only entitled to inspect law enforcement records, not to obtain copies of those records, because the statute states, "Law enforcement agencies shall make available for public inspection, if kept, the following records:…" (Okla. Stat. tit. 51, § 24A.8(A))
"Section 24A.8 does not require that these records be made open for public “copying,” Assistant City Attorney Rickey J. Knighton II wrote to a reporter requesting a copy of the Mixon video.
By the logic being employed by Knighton, the public has no right to obtain copies — or to make copies themselves — of incident reports, jail logs, etc.
Knighton contends that the public won't be entitled to copies of law enforcement records until Nov. 1 when new statutory language will state, "Law enforcement agencies shall make available for public inspection and copying,…" (Okla. Stat. tit. 51, § 24A.8(A))
Knighton said if the reporter were "aware of any authority" requiring that law enforcement records be made available for public copying, Knighton would discuss it with Norman Police Capt. Tom Easley.
Well, it just so happens that I know of such an authority.
In a 1999 opinion, then-Attorney General Drew Edmondson wrote, "Pursuant to Section 24A.8, only those records specified in subsection (A) must be made available for public inspection and copying if they are kept." (1999 OK AG 58, ¶ 13)
Earlier in the opinion, Edmondson noted, "Pursuant to the Open Records Act, all records of a public body must be made available for public inspection and copying, unless such records are covered by a privilege of confidentiality." (Id. ¶ 5)
Yes, the statute states, "All records of public bodies and public officials shall be open to any person for inspection, copying, and/or mechanical reproduction during regular business hours." (Okla. Stat. tit. 51, § 24A.5(A))
And here is another authority: current Attorney General Scott Pruitt.
In a December 2012 opinion, Pruitt declared that police booking mug shots are public records that must be released -- even in electronic format if kept that way by the law enforcement agency. (2012 OK AG 22)
When the Legislature enacted the Open Records Act, it noted that the purpose of the Open Records Act was "to ensure and facilitate the public's right of access to and review of government records so they may efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power." The Legislature acted on this purpose by generally requiring "[a]ll records of public bodies and public officials [to] be open to any person for inspection, copying, or mechanical reproduction during regular business hours[.]" (Id. ¶ 5)
Neither Pruitt nor Edmondson said the public is not entitled to copies of law enforcement records. To the contrary, both said the public is entitled to copies of such records.