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.
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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.
For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee