OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – Governor Mary Fallin on Friday stopped the Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s plan to use electronic card readers, in response to criticism the devices could be misused to seize or freeze citizens’ money during traffic stops.
Fallin said the Department of Public Safety “needs to formulate a clear policy” for the 20 readers it bought in May from Fort Worth-based ERAD Group.
“None of the devices have been used to help seize any funds,” Fallin’s office said in a statement. “The readers are intended to apprehend those involved in identity theft or other illegal activities involving monetary transactions. The readers allow troopers to read the back of the strip on a card or other item, such as a hotel room card, to see if it matches the information on the front.”
Fallin said the devices can be a “viable took for law enforcement” if troopers can ensure the technology will be used “appropriately.”
The American Civil Liberties Union blasted DPS on June 8 for asking ERAD for the capability to seize or freeze money through the readers.
“In its original ‘solicitation specifications,’ DPS asked ERAD to ‘provide a fully functional solution that allows law enforcement to read and manage data (seize, freeze or return funds) from cards with magnetic stripes containing account numbers and cash balances at the time of contact,'” the ACLU said. “In its response to DPS, the ERAD Group said it could not provide the individual bank records DPS wanted. ERAD said its system did not ‘provide banking information such as bank account number or routing number’ and asked that the section be removed from the contract.”
The DPS purportedly withdrew the request after ERAD said certain information on the cards is available only if the financial institution is subpoenaed.
“In retrospect the vendor’s comments sound reasonable,” DPS wrote to ERAD. “Would assume all gift type cards composition is universal. The point is well taken and should have been considered some information requires a subpoena. Therefore DPS has no objection to removing” the request.
DPS Commissioner Michael Thompson said he supports Fallin’s decision, saying troopers “must have reasonable suspicion” that a crime has occurred before using the cards.
“Troopers typically would not use the devices unless a motorist was stopped traveling with dozens of cards,” Thompson said Friday.
Thompson has previously denied that troopers are “out there scanning everyone’s information.”
Fallin said 25 other states use card-reading devices and such use has been upheld by the courts.
“The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has enjoyed the trust of Oklahoma motorists for decades,” Fallin said. “Taking time to develop policy for the use of these devices and to educate the public will help calm the fears of the motoring public.”
State Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, said Fallin’s decision was “wise and fair.” He has been an outspoken critic of the card readers.
“I think that she made a good decision,” Loveless told the Tulsa World newspaper on Friday. “I think it shows leadership and that the process for getting a contract and getting a device out may have gone a little too fast before we are able to get a hold on it.”
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