ACLU vs Automatic license plate readers - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

ACLU vs Automatic license plate readers

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

The  American Civil Liberties Union is taking on automatic license plate readers.

The ACLU says it is not opposed to police using the technology for "legitimate law enforcement" but the organization is concerned about how long police keep the recorded information.

The ACLU says last summer it sent out public records request  to law enforcement agencies across North Carolina. 11 police departments - including CMPD - confirmed they use automatic license plate readers.

The ACLU says its North Carolina chapter spent a year reviewing documents about the readers and they don't like what they're seeing.

"And what we've seen is the vast majority of license plates they're tracking with this are of innocent people who are going about their lives, going to work, doing nothing wrong" says Mike Meno. "It's just not the government's business where law abiding citizens travel or what they do."

Meno says their review of the CMPD documents show the department kept the data from automatic license plate readers for more than a year.

CMPD tells WBTV they retain the information for six months.

The department says it has 95 stationery license plate readers, 13 mobile ones and 4 that are mounted to the tops of patrol cars.

CMPD says the technology is used to help with criminal investigations and missing person cases. The dept says the readers take photos of tags on vehicles, and capture the back of vehicles. CMPD says there are no images of drivers. And they don't run inquiries about the owner or the driver.

Still, the ACLU believes there needs to be a law restricting all police departments' use of the technology.

Meno says "technology evolves a lot faster than the law and the law needs to keep up to be able to regulate these new technologies and make sure there is proper oversight and safeguards in place."

The ACLU is calling on the state's General Assembly to pass a law which would require police to obtain a warrant or a court order if they want to use information from automatic license plate readers for a particular purpose. The organization also wants time limits on how long the data can be stored.

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