Currently, the State of Oklahoma and tribal governments in the state issue and maintain their own license plates. Legislation signed into law Monday will address problems that state, county, city and tribal law enforcement officials are facing due to lack of access of each others’ car tag information.
"The issue is authorizing a compact, if necessary, between state, county, and city law enforcement, and tribal governments so that car tag information can be accessed by law enforcement officers who are on calls or investigations where there is an automobile disabled, abandoned – whatever the case may be,” said Laster, D-Shawnee. “Currently, and especially after business hours, if a city, county or state law enforcement officer needs to know if a vehicle with a tribal tag is abandoned, disabled, or stolen, the officer cannot access that information like he can on a state tagged vehicle by ‘running the tag’. With so many tribal tagged vehicles on the road, this is a common problem that needs to be addressed.”
SB 857 directs the Commissioner of Public Safety to develop a proposal for an intergovernmental cooperative agreement with all tribal governments that issue tribal license plates to collect and maintain ownership and registration information.
Shawnee police officer, Corporal Shawn Parsons brought the issue to Laster’s attention.
“Having access to tribal tag information would help city, county and state law enforcement be able to do our jobs better. Currently, it takes a long time for us to get the tribal tag information we need to investigate a case or we aren’t able to get any information on the tags at all because the information hasn’t been kept up to date. If we don’t have the necessary information, it’s difficult if not impossible to investigate a case,” said Parsons. “This is a great bill that will help Oklahoma and tribal law enforcement officials be able to better protect the public and hold criminals accountable. I want to thank Senator Laster for his dedication in helping find a solution to this problem.”
Laster also worked with John A. “Rocky” Barrett, Tribal Chairman of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation on drafting language for the measure.
“This bill is a necessary and logical extension of the cooperative agreements and cross deputization of law enforcement officers in state, county, city and tribal law enforcement agencies. It will help facilitate the sharing of tag information between all of these entities. Doing so will help officers in the investigation of crimes and will be tremendously helpful in addressing Amber and Silver Alerts to find kidnapped or missing children and seniors,” said Barrett. “The Potawatomi Nation is grateful to Senator Laster for addressing this need and looking forward to assisting with the intergovernmental agreement.”
The bill was also supported by the Department of Public Safety.
“The passing and subsequent signing of Senate Bill 857 provides the Highway Patrol with another opportunity to fulfill its mission of protecting the public,” said Major Rusty Rhoades, legislative liaison for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. “Given that there are multiple tribes that issue tags, there have been many times when troops were unable to run license plates in the middle of the night to check for stolen vehicles or wanted individuals. In future cooperatives with tribes, the Highway Patrol hopes to better identify vehicles on the roadway and enhance our public safety mission.”