Police agencies throughout Michigan are increasingly compiling and sharing even the most mundane information about suspects and everyday citizens, reports the Detroit News. As budgets tighten, police are joining consortiums to manage records and reports that, in most cases, are public but time consuming to access. The state is taking over a mid-Michigan network and plans a dramatic expansion that soon will allow officers to view other agencies' reports from their squad cars. Vast amounts of personal information — culled from everyday contact with police, from car crashes, noise complaints and broken taillights — can be stored indefinitely along with personal data such as cellphone numbers. Few laws govern the flow of information, which privacy advocates say is an invitation for abuse.
“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 of the American Civil Liberties Union. “That's particularly troublesome.” The debate comes amid ongoing controversy over National Security Agency eavesdropping of cellular and Internet data. Michigan police officials argue that scandal is inflaming discussion over innovative, cost-saving networks that help catch crooks. “Criminals don't keep themselves in one geographic area — one of the 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 already has 60 networks statewide that typically charge fees to access software that allows police officers to write reports, view mug shots, check for warrants and more.