Thursday, July 24, 2014

Opening affidavits

4/4/2014

[Editor’s note: The following submission is a selection from the weekly newsletter of state Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, who previously represented a portion of Franklin County before redistricting in 2012. King now is the Kansas Senate vice president.]

Many media outlets have painted me as an opponent of open government and a “lackey” of law enforcement for opposing House Bill 2555 (dealing with the release of information in support of arrest and search warrants) as it passed out of the Kansas House. I am proud to stand by our hard-working police officers and prosecutors. I greatly value the sacrifice they make to keep Kansas safe. I hope my legislative work helps them perform their important jobs and enhance Kansas public safety.

[Editor’s note: The following submission is a selection from the weekly newsletter of state Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, who previously represented a portion of Franklin County before redistricting in 2012. King now is the Kansas Senate vice president.]

Many media outlets have painted me as an opponent of open government and a “lackey” of law enforcement for opposing House Bill 2555 (dealing with the release of information in support of arrest and search warrants) as it passed out of the Kansas House. I am proud to stand by our hard-working police officers and prosecutors. I greatly value the sacrifice they make to keep Kansas safe. I hope my legislative work helps them perform their important jobs and enhance Kansas public safety.

That said, I am not an opponent of HB 2555. Even today, through meetings with my House colleagues, I am working diligently to pass the bill. HB 2555 would make search warrants and probable cause affidavits more accessible to the media and other third parties. It also would require police to leave a copy of a search warrant with the owner of the property being searched.  

I support the goals of HB 2555. In fact, the Senate Judiciary Committee, which I chair, added the requirement that police must leave a copy of the search warrant at the searched property. We must balance this important information disclosure with victims’ rights and the heavy demands already placed on Kansas prosecutors. Crime victims already have suffered mightily as a result of the crimes perpetrated on them. Probable cause affidavits contain sensitive victim information that would subject victims to further suffering if publicly released. For instance, criminals and their accomplices have been known to find and contact victims based on information available in these probable cause affidavits in jurisdictions where they are publicly released.  

To protect crime victims, such identifying information must be redacted before any affidavit is released. Because there are tens of thousands of such affidavits issued every year in Kansas, redacting every such document would place a great burden on Kansas prosecutors. I find the burden of redacting every document especially concerning when the media requests only a tiny fraction of these search warrants and probable cause affidavits.  

Finally, law enforcement should not be forced to release these documents publicly when they are investigating multiple locations or criminals until the entirety of their investigation has occurred. Otherwise, other related criminals could learn of their investigation and avoid arrest. To avoid harming ongoing criminal investigations, the timing of this document release is very important.

Through negotiations with the House, I am working to find common ground to release probable cause affidavits in a timely fashion while protecting crime victims and criminal investigations. I hope in the next few days to have found a solution to this important issue.

   

— Jeff King,

Independence

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