Tag Archives: Department of Licensing

Walgren recalls time when lawmakers had perk with cops

07 sample license with heart

Rachel Pritchett’s Sunday piece about the rise and fall of lawyer and former lawmaker Gordon Walgren is filled with fascinating tales from the capitol rotunda. 

Yes, there was Gamscam, that brought Walgren crashing down. But another tale, in particular, raised my eyebrow. From her story:

“The chief of the Washington State Patrol routinely gave leaders — including Walgren — stacks of small plastic sleeves with “legislator” stamped for lawmakers to slide over their driver’s licenses, should they be stopped. The practice worked fine, for a while. But an unimpressed Eastern Washington trooper ticketed one anyway, the press picked up on it, and the questionable practice was abandoned.”

I called Walgren Tuesday to ask him about it. He said the sleeves had “LEGISLATOR” written in red, diagonally across the sleeve, about a half-inch in size.

He said he always felt the idea was a free pass to get out of speeding tickets, but nothing more serious than that.

But, as Pritchett pointed out in the story, the practice ended with one ticket in Eastern Washington.

“And that was the end of the program,” he said.

Interestingly, just weeks before, I had gotten a Facebook inquiry from a local reader  about this practice after we ran a story about the Department of Licensing’s operation of a secret fictitious licensing program. It got me curious to the point that fellow reporter Ed Friedrich and I made a couple calls.

I spoke with State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, who said he had no such thing, never has. Friedrich asked Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, if she and other lawmakers had “LEGISLATOR” written on her driver’s license.

“I can’t even imagine anything so awful,” she responded. “Not true.”

So today’s lawmakers have no such thing. But the ones of yesteryear appear to have gotten a perk that lasted at least a few years, until an Eastern Washington police officer did the right thing.




Smile in that license photo — now, cops can see it in their patrol cars

It’s not always easy for the police around here to identify a suspect, particularly a shifty one. But a new tool, made possible by grant funding, makes it a little easier.

Cops often have trouble figuring out who someone is, particularly if they don’t provide any identification on them (or they do, but it’s bogus). They’ve long had to rely on a physical description for such folks, and that doesn’t always mean they’re able to successfully figure out who they are.

A pot of $300,000 later, and now everyone’s mug — at least those of us with Washington state driver’s licenses — is available to a police officer in his or her patrol car’s onboard computer.

Officials are quick to tout the potential benefits. A person who successfully lies about their identity could be covering up the fact they have a warrant for their arrest, for instance. The system should be in place for most law enforcement agencies around the state by November.

Here’s the full press release from the Washington State Patrol:

(Olympia) – A common practice for a criminal when asked by the police for their name is to use a false one. But, it just got easier for police to confirm a suspect’s real identity.

Previously, police officers had to rely on text descriptions of physical characteristics to make a positive identification. New computer capabilities now give police throughout Washington the ability to retrieve driver license photos.  Police can use their in-car computer to quickly and efficiently confirm the identity of the people they contact.

“This is about catching bad guys who are trying to deceive us by using fake names,” said State Patrol Chief John Batiste. “We are now able to quickly determine the real identity of these people.”

A $300,000 grant through the State, Regional and Federal Enterprise Retrieval System (SRFERS) project and from the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority (WATPA) has made it possible for police officers to quickly confirm an individual’s identity with a copy of a Department of Licensing photo.

“The WATPA board members were convinced that providing this new technology to officers in the field would aid in the preservation of public safety and in the apprehension of offenders including those who engage in auto theft,” said Don Pierce, WATPA Chair. “We are extremely pleased with the results of this grant program.”

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office is the first agency in the state to have the ability to view DOL photos through the State Patrol’s A Central Computerized Enforcement Service System (ACCESS).  Most law enforcement agencies in Washington will have the capability to view driver license photos through ACCESS by November, 2011.

“We are very thankful for this emerging technology.  Our office has been progressive in keeping up with ever changing technology and utilizing it to keep our community safe,” said Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield.

“Having DOL pictures instantaneously will help us in a lot of ways, including identifying people for criminal investigations, traffic stops, hit and run collisions, and helping identify missing or lost people,” he explained.

The grant funding by SRFERS gave many states outside of Washington including, Oregon and Idaho the ability to share driver license photos through the ACCESS system.  The funding by WATPA gave police agencies from around the state the same ability to use the system to quickly retrieve a copy of a driver’s license photo and make positive identification.

The ACCESS system is managed and operated by the WSP’s Criminal Records Division and is designed to give law enforcement the ability to query multiple state and national databases as a tool in the administration of criminal justice.