Major changes proposed to roll back transparency laws
OKLAHOMA CITY — UPDATE: Bill is posted to public access site, five days after passing committee. Read the changes to the bill here.Police in Muskogee credit bodycam video for keeping peace in their city.A black teen, gunned down, after a confrontation. The video, released under Oklahoma's Open Records Act, shows the suspect had a gun and was reaching down for it when the officer opened fire.David Holt, Oklahoma City, wrote the bill that made that release legal. Now he says that law is under attack."The bill has been a success," Holt said."The bill that was presented today is not in the interest of the taxpayer and completely guts the transparency measures we fought for last year."HB 1361 was approved in committee today. It would add costs to what you would pay, if you wanted to get a record, but would also allow any agency to deny you, if the agency deems the request to be excessive, without actually defining what "excessive" would mean."There are provisions of the bill that are some of the scariest and some of the most anti-transparency things I've ever seen," Holt said.
Rep. Ken Walker co-authored the original measure last year with Sen. Holt. He voted against the measure Thursday.
Rep. Paul Wessehoft Sunday announced he regretted his vote for the measure, saying the bill is anti-transparency.
"This bill not just takes us back a step in the area of transparency but a giant leap backwards towards the stone age of non-transparency in government. I believe that none of our constituents elected us to that."But police and attorneys like Oklahoma County DA David Prater says the release of videos could keep witnesses from testifying or even threaten them, if someone wanted to retaliate against them."It can interfere with the privacy interests of our victim it will make our victims identity open in public witnesses to the crime open in public," Prater said,Prater says he's simply asking for more time before having to release records, like the video. He says body cams like these are tools for police that will ultimately help them."The vast majority of police around the country do a good job and these video cameras and dash cams will support that," Prater said.