Bill prohibiting release of audio/video of LEOs killed in the line of duty approved

Mike Seals - March 4, 2021 11:24 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY –The full Senate on Thursday approved a measure to prohibit law enforcement agencies from releasing audio or video showing an officer dying in the line of duty unless a court determines there is a compelling reason the material should be released in specific cases.  Sen. John Haste, R-Broken Arrow, is principal author of Senate Bill 968.  Haste said his bill is supported by law enforcement as well as the Oklahoma Press Association.

Haste said he filed SB 968 after being contacted by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s office and by Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin in response to a court ruling forcing the Tulsa Police Department to release video of the shooting of Sgt. Craig Johnson and Officer Aurash Zarkeshan during a traffic stop last June.  Johnson later died from his wounds.  Haste explained his legislation would give more specific criteria for the release of such videos.

“This is about protecting the dignity of our fallen heroes.  Once these images are released, they are out there forever. The family and fellow officers are retraumatized, and it can actually cause problems with prosecuting the case—jury selection is one example of that,” Haste said.  “The video would still be available to be viewed by family members, and of course prosecutors and defense attorneys, and if a court rules there is a compelling reason, the video could still be released.  But in most cases, I believe there is simply no justification for releasing these recordings.”

Under the provisions of SB 968, unless a court finds that the public interest or the interest of an individual outweighs the reason for denial, law enforcement agencies would be prohibited from releasing audio or video depicting an officer dying in the line of duty, including the events leading to the death of the officer.

The measure now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.  Rep. Sheila Dills is the House principal author of SB 968.

For more information, contact Sen. John Haste at 405-521-5602 or email [email protected].

 

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