- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - An Oklahoma House of Representatives committee has passed a measure that would allow a public body to deny any open records requests officials say would cause a disruption of its “essential function.”

The Tulsa World (https://bit.ly/1FAyEa4 ) reports that lawmakers focused their Thursday discussion on a portion of the bill that centers on video footage recorded by law enforcement body cameras or dash cameras.

District attorney David Prater argues that storage and review procedures are “cost prohibitive” to law enforcement agencies under the current law. And Prater also says the current language does not afford police any lag time for investigative purposes if a video is requested by the media or public.

An agency is required to “immediately disseminate to the public what has just happened, before an investigation has really started, before any opportunity to secure witnesses or to protect witnesses and protect victims,” Prater said.

Republican senator David Holt of Oklahoma City, who championed a 2014 law to make police videos accessible to the public, argued that the change would be an “uncontrollable limit on transparency.”

“That’s an unprecedented rollback,” Holt said. “It’s not saying they need more time or more money; it’s saying they can flat out deny (the request) if they want to.

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty, who assisted Representative Mike Christian of Oklahoma City with the amended proposal, said that “investigation integrity” is the core of changes he wanted made to the existing Open Records Act. Citty said police and prosecutors need to ensure that potential witnesses saw what they said they saw in person and not on a news station or website.

“We’re not at odds with transparency,” Citty said. “We think there needs to be a balance. We have to be able to distinguish from someone who actually saw an event and someone who watched it on TV and said they witnessed it.”

The entire House of Representatives could hear the proposal sometime in March.


Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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