Reasoning behind WSP license designation

The in basket: Bremerton’s Byrd Thibodaux, as he’s calling himself these days, says, “Every state and local license plate I’ve seen has XMT on it, but not those of the Washington State Patrol. Why do they not have State XMT plates?  Does the WSP pay extra for these type plates?

“I’ve been told that the registration for unmarked state cars (like for investigators) has a fictitious name/address on the registration record.  Why is that needed since only authorized persons can access DOL vehicle registration records?” he asked.

The out basket: Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing, says, “Our state’s confidential license plate program provides two options for government and law enforcement agencies that would like to put ‘regular’ license plates on a government-owned vehicle used for law enforcement purposes.

“These agencies can choose to have the vehicle record reflect the agency’s ownership and include the agency name and address on the vehicle record,” he said. “This is the option most commonly chosen when an agency is using an “unmarked” vehicle and doesn’t want it to stand out based on the license plates.

“The second option is getting a confidential plate that shows a fictitious registered owner name and address on the record. This option is used when a vehicle is being used for undercover operations when the ownership of the vehicle, if discovered, could jeopardize an ongoing investigation or endanger the safety of officer using the vehicle.

“When these types of plates are issued to an agency, we also provide a registration certificate that include the fictitious name and address provided by the agency applying for the undercover plate. This is important in case a passenger sees the registration, the undercover officer is required to show it for some reason, or the vehicle is broken into.

“While it is certainly true that access to vehicle records is limited, there are situations where individuals or businesses with access to vehicle records could come across this information and potentially jeopardize an investigation. For example, this could happen if the vehicle is towed or gets a ticket in a private parking lot. And, of course, the need to have a truly confidential license plate is very important if an officer from a law enforcement agency is called on to investigate an officer from another law enforcement agency.

“The Washington State Patrol does take advantage of the confidential plate program along with other local, state and federal agencies,” Brad said.

Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for WSP here, added, “The WSP plates are used on marked and unmarked patrol vehicles are the officer’s badge number. These plates follow the officer when they are assigned another vehicle due to fleet rotation, when the officer moves to a new geographic work location or when the officer changes badge numbers due to promotion. The WSP pays DOL for the set initially ($3 per set) and the plates are used until they are worn or damaged beyond reasonable usage,” Russ said. “This is cost effective in that the WSP does not have to buy a new set each time a car is issued. I do not know the cost of supplying XMT plates but I don’t think it could be substantially different.”


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