Policy: Automated License Plate Readers Policy


The purpose of this policy is to establish the procedures for the appropriate use of Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) and the data that are collected by these devices and stored for future law enforcement use. This order has been developed to ensure that ALPRs and ALPR-generated data are used in an appropriate manner and only for bona fide public safety purposes.


The Michigan State University Police Department (Department) has identified this technology as beneficial for investigative and administrative reasons. Therefore, the Department’s policy is to use an ALPR and data generated by an ALPR only for legitimate and documented law enforcement business.


Alert Data

Information captured by an ALPR relating to a license plate that matches the license plate on a BOL List or post-scan BOL List.

Authorized User

A sworn employee of a law enforcement agency who has been authorized to operate an ALPR, or to access and use ALPR stored data and who has successfully completed training provided by the agency including the agency’s ALPR policy.

Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR)

A system consisting of a camera and related equipment that automatically and without direct human control locates, focuses on and photographs license plates and vehicles that come into range of the device, that automatically converts digital photographic images of scanned license plates into electronic text documents, that is capable of comparing scanned license plate text data with data files for vehicles on a BOL list programmed into the device’s electronic memory, and that notifies police, whether by an audible alert or by other means, when a scanned license plate matches the license plated on the programmed hot list. The term includes both portable and stationary devices.

“Be on the Lookout” (BOL) Situation

A determination by a law enforcement agency that there is a legitimate and specific law enforcement reason to identify or locate a particular vehicle or, in the case of a post-scan BOL, there is a legitimate and specific reason to ascertain the past location(s) of a particular vehicle.

BOL List

A compilation of one or more license plates, or partial license plates, of a vehicle or vehicles for which a BOL situation exists that is programmed into an ALPR so that the device will alert if it captures the image of a license plate that matches a license plate included on the BOL List.

Crime Scene Query

The process of accessing and reviewing stored ALPR data that had been originally scanned in the vicinity of a reported criminal event for the purpose of identifying vehicles or persons that might be associated with the specific criminal event.

Immediate Alert

An alert that occurs when a scanned license plate matches the license plate on an initial BOL List and that is reported to the officer operating the ALPR by means of an audible alarm or by any other means, at or about the time that the subject vehicle was encountered by the ALPR.

Initial BOL List

The BOL list that was programmed into an ALPR at the time that the device was being used to scan license plates in the field.

Non-encounter Alert

An immediate alert where the officer operating the ALPR is instructed to notify the agency that put out the BOL without initiating an investigative detention of the subject vehicle or otherwise revealing to the occupant(s) of that vehicle that its location has been detected.

Personal Identifying Information

Information that identifies one or more specific individuals, including an individual’s name, address, or operator’s license number.

The term includes personal identifying information that is learned by checking a license plate scanned by an ALPR against the Secretary of State database; or any other data system that contains person identifying information.

Post-Scan BOL List

The BOL List that is compared against stored data collected by an ALPR.

Post-Scan BOL Query

The process of comparing a post-scan BOL list against stored ALPR data.

Stored Data

All information captured by an ALPR and stored in the device’s memory or in a separate data storage device or system.

The term includes the recorded image of a scanned license plate and the optical character recognition data, a contextual photo, global positioning system (GPS) data if available or other location information, and the date and time of the scan.

The term applies to both alert data and non-alert data that has been captured and stored.


Objectives for Using an ALPR

To ensure that “BOL Lists” that are programmed into the internal memory of an ALPR or that are compared against stored ALPR data are comprised only of license plates that are associated with specific vehicles or persons for which or whom there is a legitimate and documented law enforcement reason to identify and locate, or for which there is a legitimate and documented law enforcement reason to determine the subject vehicle’s past location(s) through the analysis of stored ALPR data.

To ensure that data that are captured by an ALPR can only be accessed by appropriate law enforcement personnel and can only be used for legitimate, specified and documented law enforcement purposes.

To permit a thorough analysis of stored ALPR data to detect crime while safeguarding the personal privacy rights of motorists by ensuring that the analysis of stored ALPR data is not used as a means to disclose personal identifying information about an individual unless there is a legitimate and documented law enforcement reason for disclosing such personal information to a law enforcement officer or civilian crime analyst.

To ensure that stored ALPR data are purged after a reasonable period of time so as to minimize the potential for misuse or accidental disclosure.

Deployment of an ALPR

An ALPR shall only be used to scan license plates of vehicles that are exposed to public view to include vehicles on a public road or street, or that are on private property but whose license plate is visible from a public road, street, or a place to which members of the public have access.

An ALPR shall not be deployed in the field unless the deployment has been authorized by the Chief or designee.

Proper authorization shall also be secured from Michigan State Police (MSP) LEIN Field Services to allow the connection of this device to LEIN equipment, pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with MSP and any information containing LEIN material shall meet the guidelines of OPR15 and applicable laws.

Such authorization may be given for continuous deployment of an ALPR in which the deployment authorization shall remain in effect until rescinded.

A sworn officer of the Department may operate an ALPR or access ALPR stored data only if the person has been designated as an authorized user and has received training on the proper use and operation of the ALPR.

Maintenance of Records

The agency shall maintain a written or electronic record that documents the following information:

Date and time when the ALPR was deployed

Whether the ALPR was mobile or stationary

The identity of the operator

Whether the ALPR data was transferred to any other database or data storage device or system

The agency shall maintain a record of all access to stored ALPR data. The agency shall document the following information:

Date and time of access to the stored data

Authorized user who accessed the stored data

Whether a software program was used to analyze the stored data

Designated supervisor who reviewed and approved any disclosure of personal identifying information.

All written or electronic records of ALPR activity and access to ALPR data shall be maintained by the department for a period of 90 days, and shall be kept in a manner that makes such records readily accessible to any person authorized to audit the department’s use of ALPR and ALPR-generated data.

Audits of the data shall occur on an annual basis.

Criteria for Legitimate BOL Situations

A license plate number or partial license plate number shall not be included in a BOL List unless there is a legitimate and specific law enforcement reason to identify or locate that particular vehicle, or any person(s) who are reasonably believed to be associated with that vehicle.

All LEIN requirements for confidentiality and sharing must be followed. See OPR15 for more details on this policy.

A license plate or partial license plate number shall not be included in a post-scan BOL List unless there is a legitimate and specific law enforcement reason to ascertain the past location(s) of that particular vehicle, or of any person(s) who are reasonably believed to be associated with that vehicle.

Examples of legitimate and specific reasons include but are not limited to:


Subject to an outstanding arrest warrant

Missing persons

AMBER Alerts

Operators who are revoked or suspended

Persons wanted by a law enforcement agency who are of interest in a specific investigation

Persons who are on any watch list issued by a state or federal agency responsible for homeland security


Stolen vehicles

Vehicles that are reasonably believed to be involved in the commission of a crime

Vehicle registration violations

BOL list information may be downloaded in batch from other databases including, but not limited to:

National Crime Information Center (NCIC)

Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN)

Michigan Secretary of State (MI-SOS)

United States Department of Homeland Security (USDHS)

Actions in Response to an Immediate Alert

When an officer operating a vehicle equipped with an ALPR receives an immediate alert, the officer shall take such action in response to the alert as is appropriate for the circumstances.

An officer should make a reasonable effort to confirm that a wanted person is actually in the vehicle before the vehicle is stopped.

An officer reacting to an immediate alert shall consult the database to determine the reason why the vehicle had been placed on the BOL list and whether the alert has been designated as a non-encounter alert.

In the event of a non-encounter alert, the officer shall follow any instructions included in the alert for notifying the law enforcement or homeland security agency that had placed the BOL.

Security of ALPR Data

All ALPR data shall be kept in a secure data storage system with access restricted to authorized persons.

Access to this stored data shall be limited to the purposes described in this policy.

Stored data shall be maintained electronically in such a manner as to distinguish alert data from non-alert data.

This is to ensure that access to and use of non-alert data and any disclosure of personal identifying information resulting from the analysis of non-alert data occur only as may be authorized.

Access and Use of Stored ALPR Data

An authorized user may access and use stored alert data as part of an active investigation or for any other legitimate law enforcement purpose including, but not limited to, a post-scan BOL query or a crime scene query.

A record shall be made of the access to the data that documents the date of the access and the identity of the authorized user.

Access to and use of stored non-alert data is limited to the following purposes: a post scan BOL query or a crime scene query.

A post scan BOL query may be conducted against stored data where the results of the query might reasonably lead to the discovery of evidence or information relevant to any active investigation or ongoing law enforcement operation.

Stored non-alert data may be accessed where such access might reasonably lead to the discovery of evidence or information relative to the investigation of s specific criminal event.

A crime scene query may not be conducted to review stored non-alert data based upon general crime patterns but rather is limited to situations involving specific criminal events.

Shared Law Enforcement Access to Stored ALPR Data

ALPR data obtained in conformance with this directive can be accessed and used by this agency and may be shared with and provided to any other law enforcement agency for legitimate law enforcement purposes.

When ALPR data is made accessible to or shared with or transferred to another law enforcement agency, the designated supervisor shall document the identity of the other agency and the specific officer(s) of that agency who were provided the information.

Release of ALPR Data to Non-Law Enforcement Agencies

Stored ALPR data are considered criminal investigatory records and shall not be shared with or provided to any person, entity, or government agency, other than a law enforcement agency, unless such disclosure is authorized by a subpoena or court order, or unless such disclosure is required by rules of the court governing discovery in criminal matters.

ALPR for Parking Division

Under export control classification 7A005, this technology (all hardware and software), may only be accessed and/or shared with United States citizens or permanent residents.

This includes technical information and documentation.

When the system is not in use, it must be stored in a locked area and accessible only by U.S. persons.

The parking vehicles equipped with ALPR will remain locked when not in use.

Parking Division ALPR software shall be password protected and accounts will only be made for U.S. persons.

Tangible copies of documentation and technical information will be secured with the Management Services Bureau Deputy Director or designee and only accessible by U.S. persons.

Parking ALPR hardware and software shall not be authorized for travel outside the United States.

This policy for access control of the Parking Division ALPR hardware and software shall be reviewed annually by the Management Services Bureau Deputy Director or designee.