ACLU: Department of Public Safety sought access to bank accounts with controversial card readers

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OKLAHOMA CITY- The controversy continues over the new card reader system being used by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The ERAD system is a portable card reader that lets troopers read the information on pre-paid debit or gift cards when they’re discovered in a traffic stop.

OHP has said they can’t access or seize funds in a bank account, but the Oklahoma American Civil Liberties Union says the Department of Public Safety tried to get the ability to do just that.

Troopers have said criminals transporting illegal drugs are using cash less and pre-paid debit and gift cards more.

If a law enforcement officer seizes one of those, they wouldn’t have access to a personal bank account.

But the ACLU says DPS asked the company that makes the card readers if they could get that information.

“We were a little shocked they tried to do it,” said Brady Henderson with the Oklahoma Chapter of the ACLU.

Henderson says after pouring through the 199 page contract between DPS and the ERAD group, they found a section where DPS asked for the ability to get bank account and routing numbers and to be able to freeze and if necessary, seize those funds.

“Why was it that in official state contract negotiations you went to a company and said we need to be able to clean out a person’s bank account during a traffic stop?” said Henderson.

“Contrary to the propaganda that we’re doing a swipe and seize and we’re taking everyone’s money, it’s simply not true,” said DPS Commissioner, Michael Thompson, at a press conference on Monday.

Thompson defended the ERAD system, but Henderson says the only reason they’re not seizing that money is because the company that makes the readers said they couldn’t do that.

“When DPS is here trying to reassure the public they’re not trying to do anything improper, but here is an example where they did,” said Henderson.

Senator Kyle Loveless is one of a group that wrote a letter to the governor asking her to make an executive order suspending the card reader program until the legislature has a chance to take a closer look at it.

Read Senator Loveless' letter to Governor Fallin here.

“I don’t think that it’s wise for us to move forward with them,” said Loveless. “To say that this is wrong and that it’s potentially illegal and that’s it’s something we need to look at.”

“You know whatever the governor says, that’s what we’re ultimately going to do,” said Capt. Paul Timmons with OHP.

OHP officials say their legal team is looking over that part of the contract, but want to assure Oklahomans they wouldn’t violate their trust.

“We’re not going to do anything to put anybody in any jeopardy,” said Capt. Timmons.

DPS began using the card readers last month and they tell us they have not seized any funds since using them.

And as of now, they are still using the 16 card readers that they purchased from the company.

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