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New Oklahoma Law Aims To Protect Those Reporting Police Misconduct

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A new civil rights law on the books in Oklahoma is aimed at protecting people that report police misconduct.

Formerly, HB1478, requires the Attorney General's Office of Civil Rights Enforcement to redact the names of people who make complaints against police officers from its official report to top state officials each year, including the reports delivered to police departments.

The report comes during a year of high profile cases of police trials including the recent acquittal of Tulsa Officer Betty Shelby and the trial of former Oklahoma City Police Officer Daniel Holtzclaw convicted of sexually assaulting African-American women.

In a statement, the author Rep. George Young (D-Oklahoma City) said, "As state representatives and senators, we should work hard to make sure people feel comfortable lodging complaints, and I'm beyond grateful that the 56th legislature was able to see the value of this measure in protecting our most vulnerable."

“Everyone I've ever talked to with one of those complaints, the biggest reason for not reporting it wasn't just perceived inaction it was often fear,” the ACLU-OK’s Brady Henderson said.

Experts, like Henderson, say reports against police are like those of rape or sexual assault, often unreported with potentially disastrous results.

“The vast majority go underreported,” Henderson said. “Now to an exact percent, I don't think anybody knows. I've heard numbers anywhere from 50% to 90%.”

The hope now for this new law for advocates is more victims will come forward, normally too afraid of retaliation or humiliation to raise their voices. A spokesperson for Attorney General Mike Hunter’s office said they are “happy to comply” with the new law.

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