Bill prohibits release of audio/video of law enforcement line of duty deaths
Mike Seals - February 23, 2021 10:34 pm
Legislation heads to full Senate for vote
OKLAHOMA CITY –The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday 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 rules the material should be released in specific cases. Sen. John Haste, R-Broken Arrow, is principal author of Senate Bill 968. Haste said his legislation has the support of law enforcement as well as the Oklahoma Press Association.
Haste said he was contacted both by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s office and by Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin about amending Oklahoma law after a court ruling in September forced 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.
“Unless there’s a compelling reason to make such a recording public, the release of graphic video of the execution of a law enforcement officer serves no redeeming value, but it could cause problems in the prosecution of the case in terms of jurisdiction and jury selection,” Haste said. “It can retraumatize family and fellow officers, and once released, it will be there forever on the internet. This is about protecting the dignity of the officers who paid the ultimate price while upholding the law.”
Under the provisions of SB 968, any law enforcement agency 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 video may be released if the court finds that the public interest or the interest of an individual outweighs the reason for denial. Family members of the deceased officer may view the audio or video of the officer’s death. Prosecutors and defense attorney’s retain the right to use such videos as evidence in a legal proceeding.
The measure will next be considered by the full Senate.
For more information, contact Sen. John Haste at 405-521-5602 or email [email protected].