Oklahoma City newspaper sues for records about police nightclub incident

Wednesday, November 3, 1999

After a successful attempt to secure a 911 tape involving an alleged rape at an Oklahoma City club for police officers, The Daily Oklahoman has revised a lawsuit against the city's police department to include any and all records relating to the situation.

The lawsuit stems from police activity following a Sept. 25 incident at a Fraternal Order of Police social club. The Daily Oklahoman reported last month that police might have ignored normal procedures in investigating possible misconduct of other police officers.

Under pressure from the newspaper and City Manager Glenn Deck, the police department prepared a criminal incident report that described how six officers found a half-naked woman and a man drinking beer at 5 a.m. — three hours after closing time — at the club, also known as the Glitter Dome.

The police report blacked out most names in the report because no one had been arrested.

But the department identified Capt. Bill Martin as one officer found inside the club and a possible suspect in an alleged rape of a club bartender.

When the newspaper learned of the incident, editors asked for a tape of a 911 call from the club. Although the paper said Oklahoma City police routinely provide such tapes, this time the department refused.

On Oct. 12, the newspaper filed suit to force the department to release the tape. In the suit, the newspaper noted that the state Open Records Act specifically included “any … sound recording … received by … public officials … in connection with the transaction of public business.”

“The purpose of this act is to ensure and facilitate the public's right of access to and review of government records so they may efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power,” the newspaper said in the lawsuit.

On Oct. 14, the department released the incident report. The next day, it released a tape of the 911 call.

Instead of dropping the lawsuit, the newspaper decided to expand it to include even more records, said Ray Wilkerson, an assistant managing editor at the Oklahoman.

Such documents and tapes might include police conversations on their car phones about the incident, supplemental reports that have yet to be released and other documents related to the incident, Wilkerson said.

“We want to see if anybody had been booked on this incident,” he said. “Any and all documents that were created in this incident — that's what we're trying to get a hold of.”

But police officials have declined to release more information. A spokeswoman for the city manager's office referred calls to the city's legal department which, in turn, directed calls to the police department. Police officials declined comment and referred calls back to the city's legal department.

Wilkerson says the police have clearly tried to cover up the nightclub incident.

“They filed no incident report on responding to this event,” he said. “But the public has a right to know about it. You can't have a separate standard for police from private citizens.”