Case Number: CV-2022-2584
Court: Tulsa County District Court
Clients: Oklahoma Watch, Whitney Bryen
Petition Filed: Dec. 20, 2022
Background: In April 2022, Oklahoma Watch reporter Whitney Bryen submitted two Open Records Act requests to the city of Tulsa for records related to city police officers’ violent arrest of an elderly woman experiencing a mental health crisis in October 2021.
Bryen’s first request sought “all incident reports, case reports and statements” related to the arrest, including any statements made by officers and first responders after police body-worn camera footage of the arrest was made public in March 2022. The reporter’s second request sought the audio recording and transcript of the call that prompted officers to respond to the Habitat for Humanity Restore location where the arrest took place.
In response to the two separate requests, the city of Tulsa disclosed only basic information, including the date and time of the incident and a “call log.”
On behalf of Bryen and Oklahoma Watch, Kathryn E. Gardner, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Local Legal Initiative attorney for Oklahoma, filed this lawsuit against the city of Tulsa, alleging that city officials violated the state’s Open Records Act by unlawfully withholding records responsive to the reporter’s two requests. The lawsuit also alleges that the city violated the open records law by failing to make authorized employees available at all times during regular business hours to release public records.
Quote: “A ruling in favor of Oklahoma Watch and Whitney Bryen would send a clear message that public bodies in Oklahoma, including police departments, must follow the requirements of the Oklahoma Open Records Act,” Gardner told Oklahoma Watch.