Is It Still ‘Illegal’ Streetracing If The Police Are In On It?

If the cops help you shut down the road and then threaten to arrest a photojournalist for filming on that public road because it is a “private” event, is it even still considered illegal street racing? It depends which Oklahoma law enforcement officials you ask.

In a July 2 report on KWTV 9, the Oklahoma City CBS affiliate, the station’s photographer showed up to a public road some 20 miles outside the city where an episode of the show “Street Outlaws” on Discovery Channel was being filmed. The show, about illegal street racing, seemed to have the law on its side on the evening in question, the station reported.

“When News 9 photojournalist Cody McDonell showed up with a camera Saturday night he was told he had to leave. A guy wearing a T-shirt flashed a badge and identified himself as a “police officer in Oklahoma”.

‘”It is a permitted area. It is closed,’ he said.

“And even though News 9 was on a public street, a Union City police officer stepped in and threatened to throw our photojournalist in jail.

“‘If you don’t want to leave I will put you under arrest,’ he said.

“Officers on the scene said since this was permitted area we were not allowed to be there. On Wednesday Union City Police Chief Robert Ague said we were creating a hazard.”

To give some context, the station said the road shut down is the four-lane U.S. Highway 81 and it was shut down for some 10 hours during filming. So, how exactly is the news crew from Channel 9 creating a hazard and the closed road is not?

It appears that the Oklahoma Highway Patrol wants to know a little bit more about the road closure and street racing, telling the station that it was not notified of the apparent closure instituted by Union City police for the filming of the “Street Outlaws” show.

“But the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) says they received complaints from drivers on Saturday night.

“A permit says the show’s producers paid $25 to block off the highway beginning at 6 p.m. Ague says they did not notify the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) or OHP.

“‘Anytime you would shut down a US Highway that was designated a commercial motor vehicle oversized road route without prior approval, we really frown on that,’ said Lt. Betsy Randolph with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

“Randolph says this case brings up a host of concerns.

“‘If the roadway is going to be shut down we really would rather it not be for illegal purposes as in illegal street racing,’ said Randolph.”

Randolph also said taxpayers would have to clean up the mess left behind by the filming of the “Street Outlaws” show, which was also a concern for the OHP.

Again sticking with this whole is it illegal or not when you have the local government in on this, the Tulsa World pointed out Thursday (July 10) that the show had obtained permits to close roads and film in the northeastern Oklahoma city. Tulsa City Councilor Blake Ewing seemed to have no problem with the idea that street racing like that featured on “Street Outlaws” was likely very illegal if done without a permit, the paper reported.

“I think being on TV is awesome. I’m all for supporting illegal drag racing on the city streets of Tulsa.”

Let’s just hope the racing does not lead to any real life consequences, like the drag racing deaths of three people back in 2012.

[Image via Flickr Creative Commons]