August 22, 2012
Posted by Matt Ehling
In Minnesota, an increasing amount of attention has been paid to the use of license plate recognition (LPR) technology by municipal police agencies. LPR units are car-mounted recording devices that scan the license plates of passing vehicles. When used in urban areas, they often record thousands of such encounters per day.
Government data activist Rich Neumeister has been blogging about the technology for some time, and has been filing public data requests to obtain more information about the practice. (See an extended interview with Rich in our documentary archive.)
The Star Tribune has published several LPR stories in recent weeks, and has also featured commentary about the growing use of LPR devices.
In 2011, we submitted data requests to the city of Saint Paul to learn more about their implementation of LPR technology, as well as the policies that govern their use and storage of such data. We subsequently received dozens of e-mails, legal opinions, contracts, and operating manuals, all of which we have made available on this site. Documents were obtained from both the Saint Paul Police Department (SPPD) and the Saint Paul City Attorney’s Office.
Among the notable bits of information gleaned from the data cache were e-mail exchanges between the SPPD and the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center. The later agency appears to be heavily involved in the development of protocols for multi-agency sharing of LPR data.
Examine the original source documents in our document archive.