OKLAHOMA — Editors at the University of Central Oklahoma’sstudent newspaper, The Vista, are enjoying a much betterrelationship with the campus police department — after filinga criminal complaint against the department last semester forviolating state open-records laws.
Until recently, The Vista was not "able to getthe [police] log in any kind of timely manner," accordingto managing editor David Owens. Owens said the campus police departmentemploys some students who may not know what information the newspaperis entitled to access.
"We were having trouble getting the blotter," Owenssaid. "It would be anywhere from a week to two weeks late."
Near the end of the summer 2000 semester, the UCO campus policedepartment stopped communicating with The Vista altogetherand funneled all information requests through Bill Wiseman, directorof university relations, who often had more trouble than the studentsin obtaining police records.
After discussing their options and contacting the districtattorney, editors at The Vista decided to file a letterof criminal complaint against the campus police department, claimingthat the department was in violation of Oklahoma’s open-recordslaw.
The university reorganized the police department after theletter was filed, and editors say the problems now seem to beresolved; the editors do not plan to take any more legal action.According to Owens, the police now fax blotter reports to TheVista twice per week, and whenever charges are filed againstsomeone, The Vista has access to the report.
In addition to Oklahoma state law, federal law requires allprivate and public colleges and universities receiving federalfunds to keep and maintain campus police or security departmentcrime logs that are open to public inspection.
Assistant Police Chief Ted Jones said the relationship betweencampus police and The Vista is now very good, but it hasbeen confrontational in the past.
"One of the problems [was] just patience," he said,adding that he tries to ensure the police department gives thestudents as much information as it can.
For More Information:
The Student Press Law Center’s publication Covering CampusCrime: A Handbook for Journalists is available online at:http://www.splc.org/resources/ccc/cccindex.html.