State Sen. Jim Wilson has filed legislation to amend the Oklahoma Open Records Act to allow audio or video recordings of the Department of Public Safety be made public. Wilson believes, following controversial incidents in the state involving the suggestion of officers abusing their power, that the media should have access to the videos.
“Our public safety officers are public servants who work at the will of the public, so why shouldn’t the public have access to video of them doing their jobs? It seems to me that releasing these digital records will help dispel the suspicion that they have something to hide. Their job is to serve, protect and uphold the law,” said Wilson, D-Tahlequah. “Unfortunately, we’ve had incidents where officers have abused their power while on duty. There have also been instances where the media has exaggerated or provided inaccurate information about a case because they didn’t have the video and, therefore, didn’t have all the facts.”
Currently, certain items are not included under the definition of “record” under the Open Records Act including among others computer software, nongovernment personal effects, personal financial information, credit reports, any digital audio/video recordings of toll collections and audio or video recordings of the Department of Public Safety. Senate Bill 1252 would allow DPS audio and video recordings to be made public.
Wilson pointed to the May 24 altercation between Oklahoma Highway Patrolman Daniel Martin and Paramedic Maurice White as one example of why the media and public should have access to officers’ dash cam videos. This was followed by an investigation of another incident involving the same officer some months later for which the video was not readily released.
“Transparency in government offers the public performance measures and accountability which can be monitored and reported by the media” said Wilson.