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TV station report on university records sparks legislation

Following up on changes he called for in a KPRC-TV story, state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, has filed legislation that would make the records of police departments at private colleges and universities subject to the Texas Public Information Act.

KPRC obtained only a portion of dash camera video in late 2013 depicting the beating of a bicycle theft suspect by Rice University police officers. 

Sources told KPRC that the original video was several minutes long.  

When the station tried to obtain a copy of the video under the TPIA, university attorneys told KPRC that its police department is part of an "independent, private institution of higher education" and was "not required to respond to your requests for information under the Act."

Whitmire was angered by the video itself and by the University’s actions.   

“Who is Rice Police Department accountable to?" Whitmire told KPRC.

"They say they don't even have to answer questions."

University officials said that the suspect, Ivan Joe Waller "resisted" officer’s attempts to arrest him and that he "had to be forcibly restrained and handcuffed."   

An "internal review" of the incident "concluded that officers used the amount of force necessary to overcome the suspect's resistance to arrest."

"I'm shocked that Rice, an outstanding institution, would say, 'hey, we don't have to furnish you anything,' on something as serious as this," Whitmire told KPRC.

"We have no idea how they carried out their quote, internal investigation."

What the legislation does

Whitmire’s one-page bill amends the state Education Code by saying a “campus police department of a private institution of higher education is a governmental body with respect to information relating to law enforcement activities for purposes of Chapter 552, Government Code.”  

Chapter 552 is the Texas Public Information Act.

Call for stories

Have stories by your station’s newsroom resulted in or will result in legislation being filed in the 84th Texas Legislature? 

Has a lawmaker told you that he or she intends to file a legislative fix this session because of a news report they heard or saw broadcast on your station?

If so, TAB wants to know!   Contact TAB’s Michael Schneider or Oscar Rodriguez.

Texas lawmakers need to know that our news coverage does and is making a difference.

It’s one of just many ways that Texas stations serve our communities.

Help us tell lawmakers our industry’s great story by keeping TAB informed!

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