Case Number: CV-2024-14
Court: District Court in and for Kay County, Oklahoma
Clients: Oklahoma Watch, Whitney Bryen
Lawsuit Filed: Jan. 26, 2024
Background: In July 2023, Oklahoma Watch reporter Whitney Bryen submitted a request to the Ponca City Police Department under the Oklahoma Open Records Act seeking the arrest report for Patrick James Hansen. Hansen had been arrested a year earlier on allegations of child abuse and domestic violence. He later died inside the Kay County Detention Center, just weeks after another inmate died at the facility.
In response to Bryen’s request, the police department turned over a seven-page arrest report but left out a narrative section summarizing the arrest. City officials claimed that the narrative section was exempt from disclosure under the ORA.
On behalf of Bryen and Oklahoma Watch, Oklahoma Local Legal Initiative Attorney Denver Nicks filed this lawsuit against Ponca City, alleging that city officials violated the ORA by unlawfully withholding records responsive to Bryen’s request. The lawsuit notes that the state public records law explicitly requires law enforcement agencies like the PCPD to make public a wide range of information about arrests, including “a brief summary of what occurred.”
Bryen and Oklahoma Watch request that the Kay County District Court declare that the summary of the arrest is subject to disclosure under the ORA. In addition to asking the court to order the police department to produce the narrative section of the Hansen arrest report, the lawsuit also requests that the court require the police department to produce the narrative sections of arrest reports in response to all open record requests now and in the future.
Quote: “The state’s open records law makes clear that Oklahomans have a right to access this information, which is essential to public oversight of law enforcement,” Nicks told Oklahoma Watch.