NOVI (AP) - Michigan police agencies are increasingly compiling and sharing information about suspects and everyday citizens as part of an effort to cut costs and improve communication, officials said.
As budgets tighten, police are joining consortiums to manage records and reports that, in most cases, are public but time consuming to access, The Detroit News reported.
The state is taking over a mid-Michigan police records sharing system that's used in 10 counties and officials plan an expansion that is expected to allow many law enforcement officers across the state to view other agencies' reports from their police vehicles.
The Americans Civil Liberties Union is among those raising concerns about information sharing. Personal information can be stored, including cellphone numbers, from contact with police in car crashes, noise complaints and traffic stops.
"We are keeping information on everyone now: Not just people suspected of wrongdoing, but people who reported crimes and may be victims," said Allie Bohm, a national policy strategist for the Americans Civil Liberties Union. "That's particularly troublesome."
Police officials said the cost-saving networks help catch criminals.
"Criminals don't keep themselves in one geographic area - one of things police are trying to do is exchange information to keep the public safe," said Bob Stevenson, a former Livonia police chief and executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.
Michigan has about 60 such networks that typically charge fees for access to software that allows police officers to write reports, view mug shots, check for warrants and more. Oakland County operates one large network called the Courts Law Enforcement Management Information System, or CLEMIS.
Jamie Hess, manager of CLEMIS, said police can access records only if they have "legitimate law enforcement purposes," such as a traffic stop or criminal investigation. He said individual violators face discipline, while departments that break the rules could be kicked out system.
"There can be some talk about what we're doing and concerns about it being bad or misused, but there is encouragement now at the federal level for everybody to share data and try to help in the efforts by public safety and law enforcement," Hess said.
Last year, the state agreed to take over an award-winning Saginaw County police records sharing system and put it into use statewide.
The computer system developed in 2006 links squad cars to police records and was expanded to include dozens of agencies in 10 counties.
With the addition of officers in other communities, likely including Detroit and some areas of northern Michigan, more officers are expected to get access. Within five years, the newspaper said, nearly one-third of officers in Michigan could be hooked into the system.
Macomb County in suburban Detroit meanwhile is building its own $2 million record-sharing system.