Thanks to good work by state lawmakers and Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett, Kansas will soon unseal the affidavits used by police to justify search and arrest warrants – that is if Gov. Sam Brownback signs a bill approved last week, as he should.
These documents are open in nearly every state in the nation, but not in Kansas. As a result, the public hasn’t been able to learn the legal basis for an arrest or search warrant.
A Johnson County couple couldn’t even find out why a police tactical team held them at gunpoint while officers searched their home. It took the couple more than a year and thousands of dollars to finally learn that law enforcement mistook some tea leaves in their trash for marijuana.
The bill was championed by Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, a former federal judge. He correctly argued that prosecutors and law enforcement should be held to the same standard of transparency as all other government officials and employees.
Rubin’s initial bill was opposed by Bennett and some other district attorneys. But to his credit, Bennett helped broker a compromise that allows district attorneys to challenge a request for an affidavit, with a judge making the final determination.
It would be better if affidavits were automatically open, but the compromise is a positive step toward more transparency and accountability. Good job.