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OSBI continues to decline to release arrest records

Officials with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation have refused to release arrest records every other law enforcement agency in the state is required to make public under state law.
BY BRYAN DEAN bdean@opubco.com Published: December 9, 2012
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Bunn cited a state law that keeps confidential the OSBI's investigatory records including the results of laboratory records provided to other law enforcement agencies.

“The OSBI strives to strike a proper balance between a statute that could easily and likely successfully be argued prohibits the dissemination of any information from the OSBI regarding its investigations and the spirit of open and transparent government expressed by the Open Records Act,” Bunn said.

Bunn said the agency's media policy allows a public information officer to send news releases containing basic information about arrests. However, the policy does not mention what records the agency should release under state law.

State Sen. David Holt, an attorney, said he disagrees with Bunn's interpretation of the law and is willing to get a definitive answer on the matter.

“I think it is the case that the more recent Open Records Act trumps the older statute, but if OSBI feels it is debatable, I am willing to help facilitate an opinion from the attorney general so that all parties may have clarity,” said Holt, R-Oklahoma City.

Regardless of the legal question, Holt said, the records need to be public.

“From a policy standpoint, arrest records in a free society need to be disclosed,” he said.

Hutson said the OSBI has a reputation among journalists throughout the state for being secretive and releasing less information than other law enforcement agencies.

“My question is, ‘Why is there a need to be this way?'” Hutson said. “All of these agencies ought to be out front and up front about these records.”

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