This photo shows a sign outside the Division of Motor Vehicles office in Juneau. The agency plans to update its electronic screening system after issuing personalized license plates reading "FUHRER" and "3REICH" and later recalling them because of complaints, officials announced Friday. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Alaska plans screening changes after ‘3REICH’ license plate

An Alaska agency plans to update its electronic screening system

  • By BECKY BOHRER Associated Press
  • Friday, January 29, 2021 5:35pm
  • News

By BECKY BOHRER

Associated Press

An Alaska agency plans to update its electronic screening system after issuing personalized license plates reading “FUHRER” and “3REICH” and later recalling them because of complaints, officials announced Friday.

A review by the state Department of Administration found that the same person owned both plates at different times. The “FUHRER” plate was issued over a decade ago and the department’s Division of Motor Vehicles had little information on how requests for personalized plates were processed back then, according to the report by department Deputy Commissioner Paula Vrana. It says the division recalled the plate in October after a complaint.

Application for the”3REICH” plate was made in October, but the term was not flagged because it wasn’t on a list of more than 11,000 “vulgar, violent, criminal and demeaning terms” used by an electronic system to screen plate requests, the report says. Flagged requests receive closer scrutiny, but when “included among several hundred other unflagged” items, “3REICH” was inadvertently overlooked for additional review by an employee going through applications, the report says.

The plate was issued in November and recalled Jan. 21 after a “report of concern” was received, according to the report.

The Nazi regime in Germany often was referred to as the Third Reich, with its leader, Adolf Hitler, known as the fuhrer.

On Jan. 22, a former newspaper editor, Matt Tunseth, posted a picture of the plate on social media. He later described seeing the plate at a stoplight in Anchorage that day and taking the photo.

The photo set off a firestorm and a member of the state Human Rights Commission was ousted for comments she made about the controversy.

[State to investigate issuance of offensive plates]

Jamie Allard said on social media that “fuhrer” in German means leader and that “reich” means realm.

“If you speak the language fluently, you would know that the English definition of the word, the progressives have put a spin on it and created their own definition,” Allard wrote, adding in another comment that she is “not for banning free speech.”

Jeff Turner, a spokesperson for Gov. Mike Dunleavy, said this week that Allard’s comments had become a distraction for the commission. He said Dunleavy, who had appointed Allard, “felt it was in the best interest of the board” to remove her.

In response, Allard said that given “recent attacks against me, I feel it is best to step aside, so the commission can focus on its work” and she could get more time to focus on her role on the municipal assembly of Anchorage.

In a video posted Friday, Kelly Tshibaka, commissioner of the Department of Administration, said “3REICH,” “FUHRER” and variations of those terms were being added to the electronic screening list. She said the list would be reviewed and updated.

Vrana’s report says the DMV will implement an application process that “prohibits plate symbols that demean any ethnic, religious or racial group, or include otherwise vulgar, violent or criminal terms,” consistent with regulations, the report says.

The agency also will work to improve application reviews “to reduce the risk of error due to manual entry mistakes, human bias and subjectivity,” according to the report.

In carrying out the program, “it is incumbent upon the DMV to remain neutral and consistent in promoting civility while also creating opportunity for personal expression,” the report says.

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