People of Northwest Public Radio
Undercover Driver's Licenses
Tue March 26, 2013
GOP Lawmakers Have Concerns About Undercover Driver’s License Program
Two Washington state lawmakers are raising questions about a quasi-secret program inside the state’s Department of Licensing. For decades, the agency has issued false IDs to undercover police officers. But the legislature never approved the program.
In the early 1980s, the Washington Department of Licensing helped Mitch Barker assume a new identity as an undercover police officer.
“Had a new, false Washington driver’s license and a fake registration on the car," Barker says.
Washington state law allows the Department of Licensing to issue what are called confidential license plates to police. But fictitious driver’s licenses were never approved by the legislature. Now the agency is seeking that formal approval.
Today, Mitch Barker heads the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. He believes the false IDs are an important tool for officer safety.
Republican state Representative Matt Shea agrees, but has some concerns.
“This program has less accountability and oversight that some of the most covert programs in the Central Intelligence Agency," Shea says. "I think that spells it out right there.”
Shea and fellow Republican Jason Overstreet plan to propose additional safeguards to prevent abuses of the driver’s licenses.
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