Law enforcement officers testify in support Klippert’s driver’s license photo ID bill

Measure could help police capture criminals more quickly

Several law enforcement officers today told the House Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee that a bill prime-sponsored by Rep. Brad Klippert would not only assist them in properly identifying criminals, it could also help police from mistakenly arresting innocent citizens.

House Bill 1224 would authorize the Department of Licensing to make driver's license photos available to law enforcement officers to help them properly confirm the identity of individuals.

“Those who have worked in law enforcement, as I do, have on multiple occasions had someone give them a false name. We all remember the Oklahoma City bombing and how we thought it was simply a routine traffic stop. That trooper stopped the man who was actually responsible for that bombing. Wouldn't it be nice in Washington if we had the ability to simply bring up those pictures and identify the person we have with us, should they give us a false name?” asked Klippert, who is also a Benton County deputy sheriff. “All we are proposing with this bill is that these pictures be available to law enforcement officers for purposes of identifying people that they are talking with, either on a traffic stop or in a criminal investigation.”

“When you (lawmakers) passed the enhanced driver's license photo bill a year or two ago, you gave that authority to the border patrol so that they have access to photos for purposes of identity,” said Don Pierce, spokesman for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. “We believe we should have that same ability in the investigation of incidents that occur in our communities.”

Lacey Police Chief Dusty Pierpoint said new technologies now allow officers to get the name, date of birth and other personal information on the spot when stopping an individual. But the law does not allow officers to access photo ID on file to verify that the person's identity is correct.

“Our officers have computers in their vehicles. Their ability to get information on the scene has increased dramatically. With that, the desire to be able to identify people quickly, whether you are guilty or not guilty of anything, identity of who you are dealing with is the first thing the officers want to get established. Being able to pull a photograph up when that is in question is magnificent for the officers,” said Pierpoint.

Thurston County Sheriff Dan Kimball said in this age of identity theft, criminals often use other people's names when committing a crime. Kimball said the bill could prevent innocent people from being mistakenly taken to jail because the arresting officer could immediately verify that the individual is not the real suspect.

“This happens unfortunately all too often. I could have looked at that driver's license and photograph and said this is not this person, and that citation would have never been issued to the wrong person.  I can't think of anything much worse than arresting and detaining someone who is completely innocent,” said Kimball. “There's a form of benign neglect if we don't do this, because we are saying we have a tool here to keep from putting the wrong person in jail and we may not be willing to do that.”

Klippert added the measure would have no impact to the state budget.

“It's not going to cost any additional money to help the law enforcement officers make our streets even safer tomorrow than they are today,” concluded Klippert.

The committee is expected to take action on the bill at a later date.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov