The Star Tribune reported today how Ramsey County and other local police are getting license plate readers. But the article was more fluff and puff than stuff in my view.
The story did not at all deal with the civil liberty and privacy issues that have been discussed with the implementation of the tool. There is some opaque reference to "local and national debate surrounding police use of surveillance technology."
No discussion how plate scanners are used other than for stolen cars. No discussion as to whether or not Ramsey County Sheriff, Maplewood, Moundsview, New Brighton, and White Bear Lake Police Departments are going to place all the scans they get in central database? Are they going to be on fixed objects or on squad cars?
Across the county license plate scans on innocent people are being placed in central repositories, shared with private companies, and the federal government. Here in Minnesota no one knows.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce "sells" the release of public dollars for buying of license plate scanners as a crackdown on stolen vehicles. But it is much more than that. Just read the manuals of the license plate scanners that law enforcement agencies have, secondly, just review what some Minnesota law agencies are using it for......just more than looking for stolen cars.
It is very easy to set up a database with an electronic connection with license plate scanners. The database could be filled up with late paying child supporters, people who have carry permits, the list can go on and on. Remember names are attached to license plates. So when that "buzzer" hits and the cop hears it, you may be stopped or detained depending on what data set it's hooked up to and what the agencies priority is.
Has Minnesota law enforcement mis-sold the license plate reader for only stolen vehicles?
Yes, the Star Tribune story helped them.