DPS ordered again to release Uvalde public records

Good, though I’m a bit confused about the timing.

A Travis County state district judge has ordered the Department of Public safety to release law enforcement records related to the 2022 school shooting in Uvalde, more than a year after a consortium of news organizations sued for access.

261st Civil District Court Judge Daniela Deseta Lyttle ordered DPS to fulfill 28 records requests filed by the news organizations, which include The Texas Tribune and ProPublica, subject to redactions such as personal information of police officers and blurring the faces of minor victims in crime scene photographs.

The files would shed light on the disastrous police response that day, in which officers waited more than an hour to confront the shooter after learning he had an AR-15 style rifle.

Lyttle issued a preliminary order in June; the one issued Tuesday is the final judgment. It requires DPS to provide the records sought within 20 days, unless the state police agency appeals the ruling.

“DPS promised to disclose the results of this investigation once it was completed,” said Laura Prather, a media law attorney with Haynes Boone who represents the news organizations. “It was completed in February and they still haven’t provided any answers to these families.”

DPS did not return a request for comment on Thursday.

Prather said an appeal would likely limit the ability of victims’ families to file federal lawsuits alleging that police had committed civil rights violations. The statute of limitations on those complaints, formally called Section 1983 claims, is two years.

“It prevents (families) from having the evidence they need,” Prather said.

The state police agency had previously argued that releasing records could interfere with ongoing investigations into the shooting, though DPS said it had completed its initial report on the shooting and provided it to the Uvalde County district attorney.

See here for the background. I guess I don’t understand why the preliminary order wasn’t sufficient to either force the release of the documents or force DPS to file an appeal at that time. It would have been nice for the final judgment to come out more quickly than this did, but I can understand why the judge wanted to take the time with it. But then that gets back to my original question. It boggles my mind that DPS has been able to stonewall like this for so long, but here we are.

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