by: KIRO 7 Consumer Investigator Amy Clancy Updated:
A system meant to keep unlicensed drivers off our nation’s roads is being questioned tonight by two of the last people you'd expect: law enforcement officers.
Stacy Brown is the Chief Deputy Sheriff of Lewis County. She contacted KIRO 7’s Amy Clancy recently about what happened to her while renewing her driver’s license.
“I was given the stigma that I was a criminal,” Deputy Brown tells Clancy.
She claims that when she went to a Washington State Department of Licensing office to renew recently, the DOL worker handed her a printed report with Brown's first name misspelled but her real date of birth, stating the status of her license as "suspended or revoked."
“Her whole tone changed and she started treating me very differently and then told me my license was suspended,” Brown says of the DOL worker. “I was obviously shocked. I’m a police officer. I have to drive for my job.”
Brown was also given a temporary license and another piece of paper explaining the Problem Driver Pointer System. According to the hand-out, when a driver renews his or her license, the record is reviewed against a national database for drivers who have had their licenses revoked or suspended. In Brown’s case, the red flag came from Arizona --- where Brown has visited, but has never driven.
“I asked her if she could look in her system and try to figure it out so that she could fix my license. And she told me that it was up to me to fix, and that I would have to call Arizona to get it straightened out,” Brown claims.
Brown called Arizona. She says, after nearly two hours on hold, the DOL worker there told her she needed to talk to Washington state. Because Brown thought her license was suspended, and she needs to drive a county vehicle as a sheriff’s deputy, Brown admits she used her law enforcement connections to get the issue straightened out by the end of the day.
But according to the Brad Benfield, spokesman for the Department of Licensing, none of that was necessary.
Clancy: '”When she walked out of the DOL on that day, was her license suspended?"
Benfield: “It was not. It was not suspended that day. It was not suspended before that. And it really wasn’t in danger of being suspended in the future, based on the information that we have.”
Benfield says he doesn't know why the DOL worker told Brown her license was suspended because the temporary license she was given would have been good until the investigation cleared her, most likely within days. According to Benfield, when a license is flagged because of the PDPS system, DOL workers in Olympia automatically investigate. He says of the approximately 400 licenses flagged in Washington state per month, about a quarter of them lead to actual license suspensions. The rest are cleared.
While Deputy Brown feels the PDPS system is worthwhile, she believes online checks should be done while drivers are at the DOL counter.
It took KIRO 7 less than a minute to find the Arizona Stacy Brown through an online search engine and confirm there's no way she could be in Washington state renewing her license, because that Stacy Brown is currently behind bars -- in Arizona -- until December of 2018.
“The technology is there. I mean, it’s instantaneous. There’s no excuse for this,” Brown says of the misunderstanding regarding her license.
Her boss, Lewis County Sheriff Steven Mansfield, agreed.
“There’s all sorts of things they can look at right then and there without an in-depth investigation, to see if it’s really you,” said Mansfield.
During her interview with Benfield of the DOL, Clancy suggested that perhaps this could have all been avoided had the DOL worker been clearer that Brown’s license was not suspended, and that the automatic investigation would quickly clear up any problem. Benfield admits, that’s something the DOL can work on.
For more information on the Problem Driver Pointer System, or PDPS, click: http://www.dol.wa.gov/forms/520316.html