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Police charging excessive fees for records

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma Attorney General's office contacted district attorneys in several Oklahoma counties after learning police departments are charging the public too much for copies of public records, The Oklahoman reported Sunday.

Police departments in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Edmond and Norman are among the agencies charging too much for the records, the newspaper reported.

Leaders in at least one community _ Enid _ are scheduled to meet this month and possibly change their policy to comply with the law.

``I'm very hopeful that there are more communities doing it right than wrong,'' Edmondson said. ``I think what we had ... was a problem with only hearing half the message.''

The state's Open Records Act allows agencies to charge up to 25 cents a page, or $1 a page for certified documents. Besides overcharging on per-page fees, some are charging flat-rate search fees for public records.

Edmondson said his office holds seminars to teach the law to public bodies, but the message may not be getting through.

``We make it clear in the seminars that there are circumstances under which fees can be charged. Unfortunately, I think some people stop listening at that point. We have stressed in all of these seminars that the statute puts limits on what can be charged.''

In Enid, where police charge $20 for videotape reproductions, Capt. Jim Nivison said the department will heed Edmondson's message.

The fee for copies of video and audio tapes should be no more than the cost of a blank tape, Edmondson said.

Nivison said the department has submitted changes to its fee schedule to the city council for consideration at the March 21 meeting.

In Oklahoma City, police charge $35 for copies of video or audio tapes.

Oklahoma City municipal attorney Kenneth Jordan said the fees are based on interpretation of the Open Records Act.

``The city of OKC will certainly be willing at any time to evaluate and be responsive to any new legal opinions regarding the provisions of the Open Records Act that may be issued by Attorney General Edmondson,'' Jordan wrote in an e-mail to The Oklahoman.

Fees vary at other police departments.

Tulsa police charge a $3 per-report photocopy fee for up to 10 pages. A charge of $1 a page applies thereafter. The city also charges $5 for audio tapes and $7.50 for video tapes.

Norman police charge $3 a report, regardless of the number of pages, for people who are listed as victims in the report.

In Edmond, police charge $17.50 for reproductions of audio and videotapes. The city charges nothing for incident reports, but all accident reports are subject to a flat fee of $4.
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