Officials with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation refuse to release records every other law enforcement agency in the state is required to make public, claiming a state law exempts them from openness requirements.
The agency's position isn't sitting well with open government advocates, who said failing to release basic information about incidents and arrests is a fundamental breach of public trust.
OSBI general counsel Jimmy Bunn has refused to release records related to the arrest of Jonathan Weaver, 15, who is charged with stabbing Nick Tilley, 16, Nov. 9 outside a Seminole High School football game.
Bunn has not said what specific records agents fill out when they make arrests and has not responded to a request by The Oklahoman for blank forms agents fill out or records related to previous arrests made by OSBI agents.
Seminole police turned the inquiry into Tilley's stabbing over to the OSBI.
A judge has sealed an arrest affidavit in the case because it contains the names of witnesses who have been threatened. Although the judge's decision applies only to the arrest affidavit, Bunn has refused to release other records related to Weaver's arrest even though they are public under the state's Open Records Act.
The law requires law enforcement agencies to release records containing details such as an arrested person's description and facts concerning an arrest including the cause of an arrest.
Lindel Hutson, president of Freedom of Information Oklahoma Inc., which advocates for open government, said providing such basic information separates U.S. law enforcement agencies from secret police forces in authoritarian regimes.
“A police agency that wants to hide behind some cloak of secrecy is a cause for concern for every citizen,” Hutson said. “It's fundamental because people have to be able to trust law enforcement. If you create the type of roadblocks they try to throw up at times, you just foster mistrust.”