Automated License Plate Reader Program

Purpose of Policy

The purpose of this General Order is to establish policy and procedures for the use and oversight of the Office’s Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) technology.

I. Policy Statement

It is the policy of the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) to utilize ALPR technology only for official and legitimate law enforcement purposes, with the goal being to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of its public safety efforts in a manner that safeguards the legitimate privacy concerns of law abiding citizens. Office personnel may use the ALPR system for official use only. Any matches received from the ALPR must be verified before enforcement action is taken. ALPR data that is not considered intelligence and investigative information shall be retained for a maximum of two (2) years.

II. Definitions

A. Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR): A device that uses cameras and computer technology to compare digital images of license plates to lists of known plates of interest.

B. Hot List: License plate(s) associated with vehicles of interest from an associated database, including, but not limited to, NCIC, DMV, Local BOLOs, etc.

C. Detection: Data obtained by an ALPR of license plates within public view that were read by the device, including potential images of the plate and vehicle on which it was displayed, and information regarding the location of the police cruiser at the time of the ALPR read.

D. Hit: Alert from the ALPR system that a scanned license plate number may be in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) or other law enforcement database for a specific reason including, but not limited to, being related to a stolen car, wanted person, missing person, domestic violence protective order or terrorist-related activity.

III. General

A. ALPR’s shall be used only by sworn or civilian members of the Office who have been trained and certified in the use of the equipment pursuant to SCSO requirements.

B. No civilian or sworn member shall use or authorize the use of any ALPR system or any ALPR database information for any reasons other than official law enforcement purposes.

C. A positive Hit under the ALPR Program does not establish probable cause. With the absence of exigent circumstances the Hit information/data must be confirmed prior to taking any related law enforcement action.

IV. Roles and Responsibilities

A. General Use

  1. ALPR Systems shall be deployed for official law enforcement purposes, including, but not limited to:
    1. Locating stolen vehicles, carjacked vehicles, stolen license plates, wanted or missing persons, or vehicles on the Hot List;
    2. Canvassing areas surrounding recent crimes to capture vehicle tags that may be connected to crime scenes; and
    3. Other uses as approved and documented by an appropriate supervisor or ALPR Program administrator.

B. ALPR Administrator

  1. The Field Support Division Commander, or designee, will act as the ALPR Administrators.
  2. Shall ensure all ALPR system equipment is inspected, at minimum, on a quarterly basis.
  3. Shall coordinate training for all users of the Car Detector and LEARN Programs. Law Enforcement Archival Reporting Network (LEARN)
  4. Shall submit an ALPR Monthly Report to Division Commanders of any division deploying ALPR technology no later than the 5th day of each month.
    1. The report will include at a minimum total detections and hits generated from the ALPR equipment.
  5. Shall conduct periodic audits of user queries of the LEARN system as well as update access to the database to those only who show a continued need for it.

C. ALPR Operators

  1. Users only accessing the ALPR database (LEARN) will minimally include privacy training, Criminal Justice Information System training, and computer security.
  2. Users accessing the ALPR database (LEARN) and equipment (Car Detector) shall attend an Office approved ALPR training course as soon as practical.
  3. Shall ensure the ALPR cameras are properly affixed to the assigned police vehicle prior to starting their shift; inspecting units for damage or excessive wear.
  4. Upon discovery of any ALPR equipment that is inoperable or damaged in any way, officers shall:
    1. Immediately notify the ALPR Administrator.
    2. Document the damage/issue and submit it to their supervisor.
  5. Shall start the Car Detector ALPR system software to activate the system and receive the automatic updated Hot List at the beginning of each shift.
    1. ALPR units installed on marked Sheriff’s patrol vehicles shall be activated and used at all times unless the operator of the vehicle has not been trained.
    2. Officers assigned unmarked Sheriff’s vehicles equipped with an ALPR system may use their discretion on removing the external ALPR cameras based on mission needs. The officers are encouraged to deploy the ALPR system whenever possible as it is a great resource.
    3. Operators will maintain a National Vehicle Location Services (NVLS) account and sign into the Mobile Hit Hunter (MHH) after opening the Car Detector Program.
  6. Shall ensure that the ALPR system is operational by making sure Cam-1, Cam-2, Cam-3, LEARN, GPS and System light color is green on the top right of the Car Detector program.
  7. Shall conduct a search of their detections through LEARN at least once a shift ensuring the system is working properly.
  8. Officers shall not attempt to repair defective or inoperable ALPR equipment.

D. ALPR Hits

  1. When an alarm is received alerting operators of a positive Hit from the Hotlist database, a digital image of the license plate will be displayed on the mobile data computer screen.
  2. ALPR operators shall compare the digital image of the license plate to the Hotlist information to verify the Hit for both the state and characters on the plate.
  3. ALPR Operators shall confirm the ALPR information by radio or mobile data computer to immediately confirm the Hit prior to taking enforcement or other type of police action (absent exigent circumstances).

E. Verified, Positive ALPR Hits Resulting in Arrest

  1. ALPR operators will clear the call by checking the “ALPR” study flag in the CAD. If it is not obvious in the text of the call the correlation of the ALPR hit and the arrest, the ALPR operator is encouraged to update the call with a clarification remark.

V. ALPR Data

A. Internal Data

  1. All ALPR data downloaded to the server will be stored for two (2) years (Government Code § 34090), and thereafter will be purged unless it has become, or it is reasonable to believe it will become, evidence in a criminal or civil action, or is subject to a lawful action to produce records. In those circumstances the applicable data should be downloaded from the server onto portable media and booked into evidence.

B. Sharing Data

  1. All detection data generated from Sheriff’s ALPR systems will be shared with requesting law enforcement agencies who utilize the Law Enforcement Archival Reporting Network (LEARN).
  2. In the event an agency, whose ALPR data is not hosted on the LEARN server and requests data sharing, such request will be forwarded to the Operations Commander.

C. Hot Lists

  1. General Hot Lists (SVS, SFR and SLR) will be automatically downloaded into the ALPR system a minimum of once a day with the most current data overwriting the old data.
  2. Special Hot Lists approved by the assigned administrator CID will be automatically downloaded into the ALPR system a minimum of once a day with the most current data overwriting the old data.
    1. These special Hot Lists will be generated by comparing data from several sources.
    2. The hits from these data sources should be viewed as informational; created solely to bring the officers attention to specific vehicles that have been associated with criminal activity.
    3. Officer(s) alerted to the fact an observed motor vehicle’s license plate is entered as a Hot Plate may be required to make a reasonable effort to confirm that a wanted person is actually in the vehicle before the officer would have a lawful basis to stop the vehicle.
  3. No Office Hot Lists will be shared with outside agencies unless it has been approved by an assigned administrator.

D. Hot Plate

  1. Hot Plates added to the database by LEARN/CDMS users will have an expiration date of no longer than 30 days.
  2. Plates entered into the ALPR system with distribution to more than one officer will contain the following information as a minimum.
    1. Entering Officer’s name and contact telephone number.
    2. Related SCSO/CAD event number.
    3. Short synopsis of nature of originating call.
  3. It is encouraged officers entering plates into the ALPR system as Hot Plates are as descriptive as possible.
  4. Plates being entered into the system as a Hot Plate will automatically be entered when it is added to the General Hot List should have an expiration period of no longer than one (1) day (SVS).

References: Vigilant Solutions Car Detector User Manual
Government Code § 34090

Appendices: None

Related Orders: None