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State to police: sign Green Light Law agreement or you get no DMV data

Updated: Jan. 20, 2020 at 5:25 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Police departments across the state won't be able to access Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV photos unless they sign an agreement to not share that information with immigration law agencies. Some local law enforcement officials say they had no choice but to sign the dotted line.

Lewis County Sheriff Mike Carpinelli signed the DMV's updated Photo System Agreement. If he didn't by January 11, his department wouldn't be able to access DMV photos that assist in traffic stops and investigations.

"It protects the officer on the job that has that vehicle stopped or that person stopped to be able to identify who they are dealing with in case they give false information. If a crime does occur by one of these people, we need to be able to identify them. We need to be able to put a photograph out to protect the citizens of the state," said Carpinelli.

The agreement comes under the state's Green Light Law, which allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a drivers license under the law

DMV data can't be shared with immigration unless the DMV is presented with a court order.

The point of not sharing the data is to protect undocumented immigrants so they can can get a license without fearing deportation.

Carpinelli say he disagrees with not being able to share the information, but signed the agreement for the safety of his officers.

"To me, why take away any information that could be used to solve a crime or expedite an investigation and hurt the guys who are working on this job to keep people safe," he said.

St. Lawrence County Sheriff Brooks Bigwarfe also signed the agreement.

"It's something that I didn't want to sign but I had to sign. We obviously want to work with our fellow law enforcement agencies in our county. This does limit us to be able to do that but again, we have to have this access to be able to perform our duties, so we were kind of boxed in on this issue," he said.

Carpinelli and Bigwarfe aren't the only ones who were hesitant about signing the dotted line. According to the Division of Criminal Justice Services, as of last Friday, 39 police departments in the state hadn't signed the agreement. Black River Police Chief Steven Wood says he signed it a few days late.

"It's a document that's legally binding for the department, so took the time to read it over and understand it. Actually talked some other agencies on it to see what their opinions were," said Wood.

Once the agreement is signed, police departments can access photos again. So far all the north country police departments we have spoken to say they have signed the agreement.

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