MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

March 23, 2014

Open records necessary for government


— State legislators passed a bill last week to make Highway Patrol dashboard-camera videos open to the public.

The bill was passed during Sunshine Week, which is a national initiative to educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy. It also serves to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.

All other law enforcement agencies in the state, including municipalities and sheriffs, are required to make such recordings public, but the Department of Public Safety successfully pushed for an exemption to the Oklahoma Open Records Act several years ago.

We’re glad to see they are once again required to make them public.

It’s a great move. What’s even better is it’s a move the OHP fully supports.

OHP Maj. Rusty Rhoades, a legislative liaison for the Department of Public Safety, said the agency’s new commissioner, Michael Thompson, supports getting rid of the exemption.

“We’re excited about it, because there’s nothing to hide,” Rhoades said.

When things are not made public, it gives the perception — right or wrong — that someone is hiding something.

The Oklahoma Open Records Act isn’t a sexy topic. In fact, we know it can be downright boring.

But it might be the most important topic when it comes to government.

It’s often said sunshine is the best disenfectant. That’s why initiatives such as Sunshine Week are important. They serve to shine a light where there is none.