A pair of dueling state House and Senate bills regulating how long police can hang on to the data of innocent drivers gleaned from Automatic License Plate Readers are headed for attempted compromise, although a controversial measure on body cameras may stand in the way.
The House voted 126-3 to pass the bill, a law enforcement-backed compromise that would allow cops to store “non-hit” data gleaned from automatic license plate readers for 30 days.
A Senate version which passed last week would allow law enforcement to store the same data for 90 days, and included a controversial amendment that regulates footage gathered from police body cameras, currently in use by some departments around the state. However, Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, said that the House is steadfast on not passing a body-camera measure this year and that if the issue is forced, it could sink license-plate-reader regulations as well.
For the third consecutive session, lawmakers have sparred over whether ALPR “hits” on innocent people should be deleted immediately—what privacy advocates want, or kept for 90 days—what law enforcement initially wanted.
Last year, the House and Senate both passed their own measures, but couldn’t agree on how long police would be able to keep it and the bill died in conference committee. Last week Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, warned that if lawmakers did not act, data gleaned from LPRs could be made public.
In the House, Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, attempted on the floor to amend the bill to zero retention, but it the attempt was shot down on a voice vote. He was supported by some colleagues, however, including Rep. Jack Considine, DFL-Mankato, who quoted Benjamin Franklin, saying “Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.”
But the bill’s House sponsor, Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Chair Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, urged lawmakers to trust their committee members who worked hard on the issue—adding that la-abiding citizens have nothing to worry about if their data is stored for 30 days.
“Nobody really cares whether you go from Ace Hardware to Cub unless you smack down the owner and commit a crime,” Cornish said. “Innocent people are still innocent.”
Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, said that although she, like Lesch, supports zero-retention, she would vote for the bill.
“I’m for zero time for constitutional reasons, but I realize this is the best we can get right now,” Scott said. “I know that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but there are some great protections here for private citizens.”
The bill also includes annual audits of who can access the data. The controversy comes in part after a onetime DNR employee was charged with looking up hundreds of records. He received probation.