Oklahoma law removes 'trooper loophole'

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 6/16/2014

A new law in Oklahoma removes a loophole for state troopers in the state’s Open Records Act.

Oklahoma law requires local police and sheriff’s departments to make audio and video recordings available to open records requests. However, since 2005 the Highway Patrol has been exempt from the requirement for dash cams.

Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, said “it’s not right” that troopers were given special treatment.

“We as taxpayers pay for these dash cams to keep (law enforcement) accountable. We ought to have access to that,” Holt said in recent remarks.

Gov. Mary Fallon signed a bill into law to ensure dash-cam video recorded by state troopers will be included in the state’s open records law.

Holt, the bill’s Senate sponsor, noted that the Highway Patrol supports the change.

“I believe these recordings will show that overwhelmingly, they are doing their job as they should,” Holt said. “But if they are not, the public has a right to know.”

Critics of the new law include some attorneys. They cite concerns about a provision in the law that provides an exemption for investigations into officer misconduct.

Specifically, SB1513 includes exceptions to allow law enforcement to redact or obscure images if they show nudity, minors, fatalities, or officers under investigation. Once the investigation is concluded, the unedited video must be made available.

The rule changes take effect Nov. 1.

Starting July 1, a separate new law is intended to help get more highway patrol officers on roadways around the state.

SB1372 lowers the age limit for commissioned officers within the Department of Public Safety from 23 to 21 years of age. Applicants who served in the U.S. Armed Forces can also apply for educational credits.

Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said the changes are needed to address a small pool of candidates for positions with the department.

“This measure will create a wider pool from which to hire so we can keep Oklahomans safe on the roads and in their communities,” Echols stated.

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