Share “Secrecy shrouds slaying of northwest...”

Secrecy shrouds slaying of northwest Oklahoma City woman

Oklahoma City police have released few details surrounding the beating death of Julie Mitchell, and open government experts are criticizing their lack of openness.

BY BRYAN DEAN Published: November 13, 2010
t city police incident reports include summaries of what officers found when they arrived at a crime scene, dialogue between officers and witnesses, and in the case of a murder, the circumstances of how the body was found.Citty said such details would have been blacked out from the official report if the officer had included them.“We would have redacted the body in the closet and other information in that report,” Citty said. “In a murder case, you don’t have a lot of details of what occurred.”Open government experts said police aren’t allowed to disregard state law even in a murder case.“Police need to solve crimes, but the public wants to know when their friends and neighbors are murdered, and they deserve more than they are getting,” said Mark Thomas, executive director of the Oklahoma Press Association.Thomas advocated for a bill the Legislature passed earlier this year requiring police release incident reports whether or not an arrest has been made. Thomas said the law was intended to give people the basic facts of a crime.“Normally, we pass laws, and the crooks find a way around it,” Thomas said. “With this, it’s the police. That’s just not acceptable.”Doug Wilson, a Stillwater attorney who has litigated open records cases, read the report released by police and called it “silly.”“They are clearly going to some length to not give up any substantive information,” Wilson said. “The offense that needs to be reported is what the first officers on the scene encountered. It’s not what the third officer witnesses when he shows up.”Wilson said violation of the Open Records Act is a misdemeanor, but it is rarely enforced, especially against law enforcement.“If you had district attorneys out there that were enforcing the open record and open meeting laws the same way they enforced burglary or drug laws, it would be a different story,” Wilson said. “Everybody is subject to the law. If anyone is going to set an example for following the law, it ought to be law enforcement.”