The Clarion-Ledger, 3/21/8

This is “Sunshine Week,” a time set aside every year to bring attention to the importance of openness in government and freedom of information.

Fittingly, Mississippi just got a little sunshine.

The Mississippi Legislature has approved a bill that would open law enforcement incident reports to the public. The bill, approved overwhelmingly in the House and with no objections in the Senate on Wednesday, now goes to Gov. Haley Barbour.

The bill simply, but clearly, defines what information in a law enforcement report is open under the state’s Public Records Law. It provides the basics about where, when and who was involved in a crime incident. Investigative information that might impact the case remains confidential. But the public will now have a right to basic information about crimes in their communities.

While most professional law enforcement officials have no problem with being open with citizens, some do. The problem is that Mississippi’s open meetings and records laws are weak and have too many exemptions that allow those who want to hide information to do so easily.