Update: 5/12 – Governor Mary Fallin signed the Trooper Dash Cam bill Monday.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol will now be required to follow the Open Records Act in the same way as the rest of the law enforcement agencies in our state.
OKLAHOMA CITY — The move toward a more transparent state government took a giant step forward this week.
A bill eliminating the “trooper loophole” has passed in both chambers as of this week.
If the Governor Mary Fallin signs the bill it will be the first time in almost a decade that the Oklahoma Highway Patrol will be required to follow the Open Records Act in the same way as the rest of the law enforcement agencies in our state.
The OHP exemption was first passed into law in 2005.
According to state law and the Oklahoma Supreme Court dash cam videos are a public record.
The public has a right to have access to those videos upon request, unless the arresting agency is the OHP.
After NewsChannel 4 launched the dash cam investigation, other police agencies released dash cam video for the first time in years.
When NewsChannel 4 started investigating the “trooper loophole” several state legislators took notice, including District 30 Republican Senator David Holt.
Senator Holt and Representative Ken Walker authored bills eliminating the trooper loophole.
They found a surprising ally in the OHP.
“We have a tradition and a level of responsibility to the people of this state to uphold. We want to ensure to everybody we’re doing exactly that.” said OHP Major Rusty Rhoades on February 12, 2014.
The bill has been largely unchanged, passing overwhelmingly in both the House and the Senate.
“It opens up Highway Patrol dash cam videos and provides common sense exemptions to all law enforcement agencies for video of minors, nudity, fatalities, dead bodies and officers under investigation until the investigation is complete.” said Holt.
In fact, the bill language got even stronger during the legislative process, including the addition of a special clause which would prevent an unscrupulous police chief from launching an internal investigation into one officer’s actions for the express purpose of preventing the release of dash cam video.
The proposed legislation is now headed to Governor Mary Fallin’s desk.
“I’m very proud of this legislation and I’m proud of the role the media played bringing this issue to the legislature’s attention.” Holt said. “This is a great example that people can make a difference. They can raise issues and see results.”
Governor Mary Fallin is expected to receive the official language of the bill Wednesday.
Fallin’s office will be reviewing the bill, and she will make a decision about her support in the next few days.
The governor has until Monday to sign the bill into law.