Oklahoma Highway Patrol refuses to release video taken from former trooper's car

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has declined to release video taken from a trooper's patrol car during a stop in June that led to the trooper resigning and being charged with second-degree rape.
BY MATT PATTERSON mpatterson@opubco.com Published: August 20, 2011
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Venable told patrol investigators he began to question the woman in his patrol car and turned off the in-car camera because “he did not want a DUI stop recorded where he did not know what he was going to do.”

Is exemption valid?

A highway patrol lieutenant later collected the in-car recorder compact discs, which showed that the car recorder was turned off after Venable and the woman got into the car, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Patrol car video was exempted from the state Open Records Act in 2005 at the request of the patrol. Some lawmakers argue the exemption should be overturned. The patrol, in denying the request Wednesday for the Venable video, cited section 24A.3 of the state Open Records Act in their claim that Department of Public Safety audio or video recordings are not considered records.

State Rep. Randy Terrill, R- Moore, said the video in the Venable case should be released due to the high level of public interest, and because the release would not hinder an internal investigation. The patrol completed its investigation and turned over the results to the district attorney, who filed the rape charge Monday.

Venable resigned on June 29.



RESPONSE

Highway patrol's full statement

The full text of a statement released Friday afternoon by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol in response to a request to see video taken from former trooper Patrick Venable's patrol car:

“The department is aware of the keen interest surrounding the video of a traffic stop involving former trooper Patrick Venable and can appreciate the media's desire to obtain tangible material related to such a newsworthy event.

“Nevertheless, the department at this point is more cognizant of its role as a law enforcement agency and the responsibilities associated with that role. We encourage a cautious approach in this instance, so as to not allow the desire for information to jeopardize the rights of a person accused of a crime. Any video recording associated with Mr. Venable is likely to be evidence in the criminal case currently pending in Logan County. The crime with which Mr. Venable has been charged is not minor or trivial; it is a felony that subjects him to the possibility of incarceration for 15 years.

“Any citizen accused of a crime, to include Mr. Venable, has every right to expect that the law enforcement agencies of this state will take all appropriate steps to ensure that any evidence in their possession is safeguarded and preserved for use by the appropriate parties. Haphazardly releasing evidence that could influence the outcome of a criminal case would be irresponsible and unprofessional — this is not a precedent that the department is willing to establish.

“Once a criminal case is filed, the department will honor the legal process currently under way and will not reveal evidence independently of the district attorney. The release of any material associated with this case will be handled through the Logan County district attorney's office.”

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