To its credit, the Kansas House voted overwhelmingly to unseal affidavits used by police to justify arrest warrants – a move to bring more transparency to government. But to its discredit, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted last week to keep these records secret. Then this week, Senate leadership said it would not allow debate on the issue on the Senate floor.
Some prosecutors lobbied senators to keep the documents closed. They contend that allowing the public to see the records might jeopardize the safety and privacy of victims and witnesses.
But these affidavits are open in nearly every state in the nation, and they don’t have problems. What’s more, the Fifth Judicial District in Chase and Lyon counties has been releasing these documents for years – also without problems.
The secrecy is unnecessary and wrong.
“I continue to disagree with the position that prosecutors and law enforcement in Kansas are different than the prosecutors and law enforcement in other states that do not have these problems,” said Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, a former federal judge. He also argued that law enforcement officials in Kansas should be held to the same standard of transparency “as all other government officials and employees.”
The House supported transparency and accountability in government. The Senate should, too.