OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Exemptions in the state Open Records Act designed to protect police investigations should not be used by police to cover up for powerful people, the head of the Oklahoma Press Association said.
OPA Executive Vice President Mark Thomas told The Oklahoman the Open Records Act gives law enforcement agencies broad authority to either release investigative reports or keep them secret to avoid interfering with investigations.
``However, when those investigations are used to keep information confidential to protect powerful people, that's an abuse of that investigatory power,'' Thomas said. ``If that's what's happening, they should reverse their position and give that information up.''
Lawton police kept secret all references to a state appeals judge, Steve Lile, in a supplemental report about the Dec. 16 arrest of his secretary.
The newspaper in January asked for all reports on the arrest ``as being in the public interest,'' particularly since the secretary, Dawn Lukasik, was never charged.
Police released an initial report on the arrest and a typed, edited version of a supplemental report.
A copy of the original, handwritten follow-up report _ titled ``CONFIDENTIAL SUPPLEMENT NOT FOR PUBLIC RELEASE _ was later obtained by The Oklahoman from sources.
The report revealed the secretary had the judge's driver's license and credit card number in her purse. The report also revealed she was released from jail at the request of the Comanche County district attorney after police called Lile, who then contacted the prosecutor.
Under the Open Records Act, police have to release ``facts concerning the arrest, including the cause of arrest and the name of the arresting officer.'' They also have to identify who was arrested and the date or manner of release from jail.
However, police may deny access to other law enforcement records.
``You requested records not required to be released under the 'Act,''' Lawton Police Chief Harold Thorne wrote The Oklahoman. ``It was and is city policy to release only those records the 'Act' requires to be released.''