Editorials

February 14, 2014

Eagle editorial: Bennett flip-flops on records

When he campaigned for Sedgwick County District Attorney, Marc Bennett said that he wouldn’t oppose allowing the public to see probable-cause documents that are used to justify search warrants or arrests. Yet there he was in Topeka on Wednesday testifying against a bill to do that.

When he campaigned for Sedgwick County District Attorney, Marc Bennett said that he wouldn’t oppose allowing the public to see probable-cause documents that are used to justify search warrants or arrests. Yet there he was in Topeka on Wednesday testifying against a bill to do that.

Bennett insists he didn’t change his stance. But if it looks like a flip-flop and acts like a flip-flop.…

Bennett suggested that the records be presumed closed and that the media or members of the public should have to go to court to unseal them. Other law enforcement representatives claimed that the media and public couldn’t be trusted with the information – the “you can’t handle the truth” argument.

But probable-cause documents are open in nearly every state in the nation, and they don’t have problems. Why is Kansas so unique in needing to keep these documents secret?

As Rep. Les Osterman, R-Wichita, asked: “What are we hiding?”

Opponents act as if these are their records to determine when to hand out. In fact, these documents belong to the public.

Sedgwick County District Court Judge Eric Yost and Mike Kautsch, a University of Kansas law professor, testified last month in support of opening probable-cause documents. They believe in transparency and accountability in government, including law enforcement.

When he was campaigning, Bennett said he believed in that, too. Apparently not.

For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee

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