Police gain capability to retrieve license photos during stops

September 6, 2011

By Staff

Police used to rely on text descriptions to identify criminals, but now, due to upgraded computer capabilities, officers can retrieve driver’s license photos on in-car computers.

Through a $300,000 grant from the State, Regional and Federal Enterprise Retrieval System project and the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority, officers can quickly confirm a person’s identity by using a copy of a state Department of Licensing photo.

The program is expected to reach most law enforcement agencies in the state soon.

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

The grant gave many states, including neighboring Oregon and Idaho, the ability to share license photos through the state patrol’s A Central Computerized Enforcement Service System, or ACCESS. The funding from the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority gave police agencies in Washington the same ability to use the system to quickly retrieve a copy of a license photo and make a positive identification.

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

“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,” Don Pierce, Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority chairman, said in a statement. “We are extremely pleased with the results of this grant program.”

The initial agency in the state to gain the ability to view license photos through ACCESS is the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Most law enforcement agencies in the state should gain the ability by November.

“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,” Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield said in a statement.

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