A second year law student and outspoken racial justice activist grew tired of waiting months for the Oklahoma City police to honor his request for information. So, he filed a lawsuit against the city.
Jess Eddy, who studies at OCU law, filed the suit against OKC on Monday. It demands for “the public body Defendant to immediately produce the subject records to Plaintiff or show cause as to why the records should not be produced,” according to the lawsuit.
Eddy filed multiple Freedom of Information requests in November. They seek cell phone data and other communications from city employees, along with body cam footage from recent police killings. He claims those requests went unanswered.
After a Summer of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests and a spate of police killings in Oklahoma City, Jess Eddy founded Whites Against Racism (WAR). The collective of white allies use their privilege to support and defend people of color seeking to dismantle white supremacy. Eddy and the group actively attend city meetings demanding justice and accountability.
“As an activist trying to seek reform of not only police, but the city as a whole, I understand why having access to public records is so important to understanding how the institutions operate.” Eddy told BWST, explaining his lawsuit.
OKCPD second-deadliest police department in the U.S.
OKC police killed 15-year-old Stavian Rodriquez in late November during an armed robbery. Bystander video captured Rodriguez putting his gun down when officers shot him. Police then killed Benny Edwards in December, an unhoused older man suffering from mental illness. Oklahoma City is home to the second deadliest police department in the nation, according to nationally recognized data center Mapping Police Violence.
“I’m doing this now because I tried to be patient with them. To advise them to follow the rule of law. And I’ve had it with them,” Jess Eddy said. “They have hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal. No excuse to not be making public records available in a timely manner.”
City refuses to comment
The City of Oklahoma City refused to comment, citing pending litigation. But the city has previously argued that they aren’t obligated to turn over body cam footage until the District Attorney has decided whether to file charges against the officers, The Oklahoma City Free Press reported. But that wouldn’t affect the other forms of communications Eddy’s lawsuit demands.
“In my opinion, they’re breaking the law to keep us ignorant of what’s going on, “Eddy said about the city. He also cited what he considers a flaw in Oklahoma’s Open Records Act. It doesn’t require a specific deadline for local governments to meet those requests.
Still, the OKC activist remains hopeful that the District Judge for Oklahoma County will give him a favorable ruling. He isn’t afraid of the city appealing it either. He believes that if the city appeals to a higher court and Eddy prevails, the precedent will affect more Oklahomans.
Eddy said he wants the ruling to benefit all Oklahomans. “I believe the city is doing this across the board to undermine communities’ right to know what’s going on in government.