News briefs

In an effort to curtail identity theft, the 2005 Legislature directed the Oregon Department of Transportation to use facial recognition software before issuing driver’s licenses.

ODOT looks to technology to curb identity theft

In an effort to curtail identity theft, the 2005 Legislature directed the Oregon Department of Transportation to use facial recognition software before issuing driver’s licenses.

The deadline for putting the changes into effect is the summer of 2008, but the conversion to the new system has started.

As soon as a driver’s license photograph is taken, software will begin performing detailed mapping of the applicant’s facial features. Those images will be compared with the already archived digital pictures of all the state’s drivers.

For drivers, the big change will be in the time it takes to get a license. Instead of leaving the DMV field office with their license, motorists will instead get a temporary black-and-white card that expires in a month.

The official licenses will be mailed five to 10 days after the stop at the DMV, assuming no problems are found. The lag will give time to analyze the photos and ensure that the same person is not acquiring bogus licenses at several DMVs on the same day, said David House, a spokesman for the Driver and Motor Vehicles Services Division.

-Associated Press

PSU, OHSU to remain separate

The perennial move to combine Portland State and Oregon Health and Sciences University failed. Chief supporter and legislator Mitch Greenlick says the universities could get a boost in prestige from joining similar departments, adding that the possible synergy could help make the new university an academic powerhouse. He has called the merge “inevitable.” The legislator, who has taught at both universities, also points out that merging the two institutions could eliminate top administrative positions, saving tax dollars spent on salaries.

House Bill 3024 would have made PSU an independent public corporation, just like OHSU has been for 12 years. PSU would then be installed under OHSU’s board of directors, which would be renamed the Portland Metropolitan Board of Directors. The new board would have six years to come up with plans for financing and blending the two campuses. As in similar attempts during the 2003 and 2005 legislative sessions, administrators at both universities did not endorse the plan, saying the university missions and cultures were too distinct.

-Elisabeth Meyer

Arming public safety officers

A bill to make Campus Public Safety Officers more like police officers–increasing training, providing the officers with firearms and paying them more competitively with law enforcement–passed in the state House of Representatives but was snubbed by the Senate. The Oregon University System did not support the bill. Oregon University System Vice Chancellor Jay Kenton estimated the measure would cost $4.5 million every two years, much more than the supporters’ number of $2 million.

“It was expensive, and not only was it expensive in terms of salaries, you have training costs and risk management costs,” Kenton said in May.

Proponents of the measure said that unarmed safety officers must wait for backup from local police in case of a violent incident on campus. The bill received a boost in urgency after the shootings at Virginia Tech University in April.

“Now more than ever our officers are interacting and coming in contact with violent offenders,” said Linda Flores, representative of the Judiciary Committee, which sponsored the bill.

The measure prescribed that each campus get six armed officers. The one-size-fits-all policy raised objections from the universities.

“It didn’t take into account the unique campus environments,” said Debbie Murdoch, assistant to the president at OUS. She also added that the issue is being studied by OUS and could resurface in a future session.

University of Oregon and Oregon State University have contracts with local and state police, but none of Oregon’s other public universities do.

-Elisabeth Meyer