Posted in Uncategorized on March 20, 2012
A Washington County judge has ruled that a hospital video held by the Bartlesville Police Department is an open record under the Oklahoma Open Records Act.
The video shows Bartlesville police officers Sonya Worthington, Stacy Neafus, Carey Duninphin and Josh Patzkowski in a room with a handcuffed man. The City terminated Worthington, Neafus and Duninphin over the incident. Both Worthington and Neafus have been charged with assaulting the patient.
The decision underscores the idea that records held by the government should be open to the public for inspection so the people can know what the government is doing with their tax dollars.
This is particularly important in the context of law enforcement where the actions of government employees can result in substantial damage awards being assessed against the citizens. This is exactly what happened in Delaware County, Oklahoma where the county recently settled a jail rape case for $13 million dollars.
Despite this fact, law enforcement agencies routinely hide records from public scrutiny by relying on certain exemptions in the open records act. In doing so, these agencies operate in secret which prevents the public from knowing what they are doing until its too late.