Kansas has laws in place to keep government open and accessible to all citizens.
The Kansas Open Records Act and Kansas Open Meetings Act exist to protect the rights of individuals to inspect public records ó information at police stations and school district offices, for example ó and gain access to places where public business is conducted, such as city commission or school board meetings.
But secrecy too often trumps transparency. Knowing as much, it was good to see Kansas recently fix a longstanding problem by opening court records for probable cause affidavits used to justify arrests or search warrants.
Kansas was believed to be virtually alone as a state where the documents remained closed.
Without access to information authorities record in an affidavit, someone could be arrested, jailed and even convicted without the public knowing the reasoning. Or, someoneís home could be searched without them knowing why.
Police acts, as with any function of government, require oversight.
Because of the new law that made probable cause affidavits open records, The Telegram recently was able to give readers more insight into a case involving a fatal shooting in Garden City.
The affidavit included sworn statements of witnesses and the accused shooter in the Dec. 6 slaying at a local grocery store. The document included statements to authorities from Loren Wiseman of Wichita, 21, accused in the attack on 32-year-old Jeremy Pascascio of Garden City. Wiseman remains jailed on suspicion of first-degree murder.
Credit the local court system for properly responding to the request for the probable cause affidavit.
Unfortunately, some judges in Kansas have resisted, falling back on the old argument of the information possibly harming a defendantís case ó even though the release of such documents for many years in other states has shown thatís not an issue.
Kansasí new law appropriately balances the publicís right to know with the need to protect the rights of the accused.
Instead of tolerating policies that discourage access to public documents, the goal should be a free flow of information, and a more informed citizenry.
Kansas took a needed step toward as much by opening probable cause affidavits, and shining more light on the workings of our government.