Kansas Senate passes bill to relax open records law, now goes to House

A bill that would open police reports in Kansas for the first time in more than 30 years passed the state Senate Wednesday.

The police report bill is coupled with another bill that speeds up death penalty appeals and is now before the House. It could be approved and sent to the governor for signing as early as Thursday or Friday, legislators said.

Kansas is the only state in the country where this information is not a public record.

The 41 Action News investigators recently looked into the state of law enforcement records in their series “The Dark State .” The investigation detailed how people who sought police records were not able to get them without a court fight.

The law currently requires that a person who wants a police report to be prepared to spend thousands of dollars and file a lawsuit. In one case, a couple spent $25,000 to find out why police searched their home.

In other states such as Missouri, police reports are generally available within 24 hours.

The bill specifically would open probable cause affidavits and search warrants in Kansas. Probable cause affidavits contain the information police present to a judge in order to secure an arrest warrant.

The bill requires that the public make a request through the court clerk’s office to see a police report.

It also allows prosecutors to redact information about juveniles, victims of sexual assaults, or information they feel might jeopardize ongoing an investigation.

The bill gives prosecutors five days to redact the information, and a judge five days to review it.

The intent of the bill is that the police report, which is generally two or three pages, is released within hours, legislators and stakeholders said. The five-day time period was meant to assist part-time prosecutors mostly in western Kansas who may not have a chance to immediately review the report. 

Rep. John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican, hopes to present the bill on the House floor today. If approved, the bill would then go to Governor Brownback’s office for his signature.

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