Bill seeks to make Okla. troopers' dash cams public
Senator says withholding OHP videos is not defendable when local law enforcement dash camera videos are subject to release
By Barbara Hoberock
OKLAHOMA CITY — The dash camera videos of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol could become public under a measure filed in the Oklahoma Senate.
Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, filed Senate Bill 1513 that would remove the exemption from the Oklahoma Open Records Act.
Currently, the Department of Public Safety can withhold the videos. Local law enforcement agencies are already required to produce them when requested.
"I have been pretty vocal the last three years in the Senate about transparency in government," Holt said Wednesday. "I tend to have a pretty hard rule. I don't think many things ought to be off limits to the public."
He said exempting OHP videos from the act is not defendable when local law enforcement dash camera videos are subject to release.
"The videos are paid for by the taxpayer of people doing their jobs, paid by the taxpayers and given great authority by the taxpayers," Holt said. "The dash cams are put there to make sure they are doing their job well, and I think it is our right to see them."
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is not opposing Holt's bill to remove the exemption, said Maj. Rusty Rhoades, an OHP spokesman.
But Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove, said he will back legislation to close the release of dash camera videos of local law enforcement from the Open Records Act.
Shaw said producing the videos takes up a lot of time, and he said lawyers seeking work will attempt to use the videos to increase business.
In addition, someone who is upset with a police officer could use a video to attempt to paint the officer in a bad light, Shaw said. Also, sometimes police officers "vent," and that would be captured on video and be made available to the public, Shaw said.
Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, said he will be the author of the Senate bill to remove the exemption for Oklahoma Highway Patrol videos. Murphey said he doubts that efforts to close currently open dash camera videos will be successful.
"Legislators are not anxious to walk back on transparency laws," Murphey said.
Mark Thomas, executive vice president for the Oklahoma Press Association, said that "we certainly think transparency is important and the dash cam video should be an open record."
"If there are any exceptions that need to be carved out, certainly the legislative process will bring those forward," he said.
Thomas said an exception could include footage of a person being killed or involve a minor or nudity. Thomas said the exemption was inserted into the Open Records Act in 2005.
Copyright 2014 Tulsa World
McClatchy-Tribune News Service