March 18, 2015 -
The Texas Senate Transportation Committee passed a bill that would prevent the Department of Public Safety from acquiring all 10 fingerprints of driver’s license applicants, according to a report by Chron.
Introduced by Senator Charles Schwertner, R- Georgetown, the bill strongly opposes DPS director Steven McCraw and various police groups, regarding the security measure as an unnecessary practice in the current best practices in police departments across the state.
Last month, the department stopped collecting the full fingerprint set from driver’s license applicants. However, Schwertner’s bill would legally prohibit the collection of applicants’ 10 fingerprints.
Texas Municipal Police Association executive director Kevin Lawrence said the organization has already registered its opposition to the bill as they prefer to keep all 10 fingerprints on file in case they need it in the future.
“We’re certainly going to continue doing our jobs,” said Lawrence. “We just believe it’s a pretty simple, easy process that when someone applies for the privilege of a driver’s license, to get all their fingerprints.”
DPS began the practice of collecting all 10 fingerprints in 2014, and since then, police have relied on this database as a key tool in investigative work, said Lawerence.
Prior to this, DPS would only collect thumbprints, or an index fingerprint if a thumbprint was not available.
“We just assume those records would be available, even if it requires a court order,” Lawrence said.
Senator Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, was the committee’s lone member who voted against the bill for reasons that several police departments have informed her that they have already purchased new biometric scanners for officers to capture the 10 fingerprints.
She also emphasized that the bill does not simply pertain to criminal investigations, but could also potentially hinder police from identifying people after major weather disasters.
“I don’t know what the paranoia is about. I don’t see it as a violation of human rights,” said Garcia. “To me, what’s more important is the law enforcement tool and the ability to cross-check these records.”