Texas DPS whistleblower insists officials aren’t being candid

Texas DPS whistleblower insists officials aren’t being candid

by Dave Lieber

You can follow the action at my Watchdog page at The Dallas Morning News. But as a supplement to my columns (there have now been four), I also like to present the actual comments from various parties so you can decide for yourself.

Background: I exposed this program of fingerprinting all Texas driver’s license applicants. DPS defends it as legal under a 2005 state law. Some state lawmakers say that’s not what they voted on.

In this installment of What the Players Actually Say (read a previous one here), I share the detailed memo that DPS is sending to state legislators who inquire about the program.

Here is the DPS memo in full. (This opens into Scribd where we have uploaded it for you.)

And below I have the response to that memo from Ryan Barrett, the fingerprint tech who resigned, in part, because he believes, as others do, that the quietly-launched program is illegal, unethical and unathorized by state lawmakers.

Ryan Barrett’s response:

I am noticing in these documents that the PR team I suppose that is trying to handle/respond to everything still doesn’t see that AFIS isn’t the only issue – the crimes & records department maintains a record after it runs through AFIS.

Also, while they maintain that they aren’t searching an individual’s criminal history, it is important to note the database (which is split into AFIS and CCH) that the crimes & records department houses is, by its very nature, a criminal history database.  CCH stands for Computerized Criminal History! Therefore, by using AFIS to identify a record with fingerprints (which is the point of AFIS), they are indeed searching for someone’s criminal history, because that’s the point of the database.  Concealed handgun licenses require a criminal background check – therefore they are run through AFIS and stored in the department. Same goes for the national guard, teachers, realtors, etc.

Generally, there are two cases AFIS and CCH is used for:

1) A licensing agency wants to know the criminal background of an applicant because it’s required by state law – therefore they submit the applicant’s prints to AFIS, which gives them a record number of the applicant, which is then used to look-up their criminal (and licensing) history in CCH.

2) A Texas police agency wants to submit an arrest – therefore they submit the arrested person’s prints with the arrest data to AFIS, which gives the police agency back a record number of the individual arrested, which allows them to see their criminal (or licensing) history in CCH.

In either case, the submitted information is retained in both AFIS (fingerprints) and CCH (license or arrest information). So what happens if you don’t have a record in case #1 or #2? A new one is instantly created and stored in the system.Driver’s licenses are now part of case #1. Does the DL department care about your criminal history? No – excluding citations and DUI’s. But what effectively happens is that the Department of Public Safety’s law enforcement side gets to have and use practically every individual’s fingerprints in the state for purposes other than licensing. The separation is gone. Think about this for a second: when you renew or obtain a new driver’s license as of January 2014, your prints and that record are also stored in the DPS’s Crimes & Records department.One secondary positive effect of using AFIS is ensuring unique records – i.e., there are no duplicate records, and every record reflects a unique individual.  That’s what the DPS is trying to take advantage of by sending drivers license fingerprints through the system. I’m all for that, but it needs to be separate – drivers licensing needs its own system that houses and contains only DL fingerprints. Additionally, we need a clear definition of what constitutes using our fingerprints. We have definitions for arrests and licensing agencies that require criminal history checks. But not with drivers licenses.Are drivers licenses at the same level as a concealed handgun license? Regardless of the answer, there needs to be concrete legislation AND policies/procedures that define these topics.  Most importantly, the public needs to be able to know what’s going on with their private information.  Had Dave’s articles not been in the media, how would anyone have known what was happening? How would anyone have had the chance to debate this topic?


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