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Oklahoma City to explore purchase of license plate scanning equipment

The Oklahoma City Council gave the green light this week for city staff to negotiate the purchase of license plate scanning equipment for police patrol cars. The equipment can show officers instantly if nearby vehicles are stolen or wanted as part of a criminal investigation.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL mkimball@opubco.com Modified: November 15, 2012 at 9:05 pm •  Published: November 16, 2012
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The suit, filed in September, is in response to the government not releasing them to the ACLU in response to a request made for this summer. In a news release, ACLU officials cited concerns with how the government was using, storing and sharing the information involved with the systems.

Law enforcement officials have responded by pointing out that only publicly available information is searched by the systems. Nelson added that the alerts provided by the system in most cases don't even provide as much information as if the officer stopped to search a license plate number himself.

“This doesn't even tell the officer the registration information,” Nelson said. “What the officer is doing when he pulls up behind you and he runs your tag ... he gets information back that tells him who the registered owner is on the vehicle and whether or not there's insurance on the vehicle. This system doesn't do that.”

Nelson also said city officers will have other checks to go through after an alert comes across to verify its validity.

Police officials have not decided yet how to use or where to deploy the systems because the systems haven't been purchased, Nelson added.

Before voting with the rest of his colleagues to approve the purchase negotiation, Ward 8 Councilman Pat Ryan urged police officials to prioritize data security when they begin using the system, making sure anything collected stays in police hands.

“I understand that a lot of the information that they'll get is public already, but it's not available in as quick and as easy a form,” he said.