Senate votes on plate-readers

Minnesota lawmakers debated Thursday about how long state police departments should be allowed to store the data they collect with license plate readers, automated devices that scan the plates of passing vehicles and record the vehicles’ locations.

After a lengthy debate, a Senate panel passed a bill that allows law enforcement agencies to hold the information for up to 90 days after they first collect it.

Law enforcement representatives explained that license plate readers help police officers track stolen vehicles and missing persons. Privacy advocates, however, argue that storing non-offenders’ location information encroaches on individual liberties.

The House must also approve the Senate’s bill for it to become a law. However, Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, who heads the commission that will examine the bill, has expressed her desire for non-offenders’ information to be immediately deleted from databases.

British police departments first introduced license plate readers in the 1990s to monitor the Irish Republican Army. Since then, the technology has grown popular in the United States. A 2012 study found that 71 percent of law enforcement agencies employed some form of license plate-reading technology.

We would like non-offenders’ information to be immediately deleted from police databases. However, we also recognize that this bill presents a rare opportunity for meaningful bipartisan dialogue, cooperation and compromise. Politicians from both parties have expressed their willingness to compromise on this issue, and, ultimately, a successful compromise might be more valuable than the final decision itself.