A couple of weeks ago, Michael Tate Reed Jr., a Christian who has been “diagnosed with Bipolar and… was off his medication,” drove a car into the Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma Capitol lawn.
In a strange (but perhaps expected) twist to the story, the Department of Public Safety has refused to release security footage of the crime. Even though an open records request was made for it, and even though the cameras are technically paid for by the people:
“DPS considers the information requested to be confidential and denies access to this information,” the agency wrote in an Oct. 29 letter.
The department also denied a second request, filed after a new state law went into effect that is supposed to help make public safety video and audio recordings more accessible to the public.
The agency argues it is excluded from the state’s open records law, and also that it has the right to keep the video private because it involves the placement and configuration of security equipment.
But any visitor can look up and see cameras at the Capitol, said Joey Senat, an associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University who specializes in the open records law. The state seems to make no effort to camouflage its cameras, he said.
What I don’t understand is what they’re trying to hide. We already know what happened. What other details could possible make the story worse? If the placement of cameras really is the issue, why not just release footage from one camera? (Since it’s apparently not even hidden.)
State officials have already faced a couple of different legal challenges because of this monument; do they really want any more?