FBI & Police Use of Databases

by Romualdr

FBI & Police Use of Databases

It is commonly known that the Federal Bureau of Investigations use databases in aiding criminal and terrorist investigations. However, what isn’t known are how these databases actually function and the information that these databases hold, in the sense that Americans have only an idea of how they work. The FBI’s databases are held confidentially and are not viewable to people for obvious security reasons; however, some widely known databases are the NCIC Database, IAFIS Database, and the CODIS Database, along with descriptions of their functions. These databases aid the FBI by improving the efficiency, speed, and availability of information in solving crimes, finding missing people, and fighting against terrorism. FBI databases are related to the course because they use many ERD models which contain entities, relationships, and attributes in organizing the database in order run queries on suspects.

The first and most commonly used database is the National Crime Information Center Database. It is accessible by any law enforcement agency in the U.S and contains information of criminals, missing people, stolen property, fugitives, and any arrest warrants. The NCIC database works by police requesting the dispatch to run a NCIC check or query on a suspect who has been arrested. The dispatch use their own software in querying suspects and is directly connected to the FBI’s NCIC database. The dispatch can query serial numbers, driver license IDs, addresses, etc. in the software and try to find a match in the database. Police gather information from any arrests and add up records to the agency’s database with images and information of more people.

Another database that is widely used is the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or the IAFIS database, which contains biometric information such as fingerprints, palm prints, facial recognition, etc. The IAFIS is the largest database in the world, holding biometric and criminal history information of more than 55 million subjects. It also provides automated fingerprint search capabilities, latent search capability, electronic image storage, and electronic exchange of fingerprints and responses. For the IAFIS database to be used by facial recognition a 3D image of someone’s face is captured plotting points. For example, from the eye socket to the lips and to the jaw line are measured with numbers or coordinates. With these measurements, algorithm will be applied to make it into a 2D image in which the FBI can compare in the database for a match or hit. This is done by a mathematical database matching algorithm because no information is known that can be used for a query.

The third database the FBI uses is CODIS, or Combined DNA Index System Database, which are held at the local, state, and national level.  It is composed of the DNA from serious offenders, missing people, and convicted criminals.  The CODIS database works by assimilating a DNA sample such as semen and contains a unique pattern of proteins. This pattern is then converted to an electronic format which goes to the CODIS database. To find a suspect’s DNA, a pattern matching algorithm is run instead of a query. During this algorithm, a hit is displayed when repeated patterns of DNA, matches the DNA sample and an offender sample. For example, if a DNA sample from a scene matches a sample taken from another crime scene, then it would be a forensic hit. If the crime scene sample matches a convicted offender then it results in an offender hit. Thus, using databases can obtains hits to help investigators find valuable information for an investigation.

There are many complaints as to what actually goes inside the FBI databases and how they gather information. While it is reasonable to have information of criminals or terrorists, some people believe that if they haven’t done anything wrong to deserve a record, they shouldn’t have a record. However, there is an argument that says if a person hasn’t done anything wrong, then they should not be worried. Some people could tolerate databases to hold basic information such as name, date of birth, and driver license ID, but to have DNA information, facial patterns, and even fingerprints raises complaints. An example is a case in which an FBI agent covertly gained access to a suspects’ computers in order to install spyware by using a flash drive. In another case, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) claimed that smartphones data backup feature are giving Wi-Fi passwords to agencies such as the NSA (National Security Agency) and the FBI in order to see what people are actually looking at over the internet. This led to a court ruling between people and the FBI that it violated the first amendment of the U.S. constitution. The court decision was handed down after a classified telecommunications company, represented by the (EFF), contested that national security letter provided by the FBI. These letters explain how FBI to demand customer information from ISPs without court approval. This shows how law enforcement can sometimes abuse their power unlawfully and violate the right to privacy.


Moore, Solomon. “F.B.I. AND STATES VASTLY EXPANDING DATABASES OF DNA.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 18 Apr. 2009. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Waxman, Matthew C. “Ohio’s Lessons: State Governments and Facial Recognition.” Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, 02 Oct. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

FBI. FBI, 17 Mar. 2010. Web. 20 Feb. 2014. <http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ncic>

“Nothing Is Safe: FBI Reportedly Bulk Collects Entire TorMail Database.” BGR. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2014. <http://bgr.com/2014/01/28/fbi-tormail-database-breach/>

20 thoughts on “FBI & Police Use of Databases

  • February 22, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    I thought this was a very good presentation because many people seemed interested instead of texting on their cell phones. it was more understandable how this person was talking about the use FBI in databases and his partner was doing the opposite; the compare and contrast helped to evaluate both sides of the story

  • February 22, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    This was a very good topic. It was nice to be informed about something that will help the police and the government in catching criminals given the information from databases. I also think its awesome that they have a project to improve there system.

  • February 23, 2014 at 2:22 pm


    It’s good to know that these new technologies are being used to make our world a safer place given that our personal freedoms are being compromised in the process; big brother is here to stay!!!

  • February 27, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I thought the article and presentation were very interesting since we always see or hear about those police databases in movies and tv shows. I never realized how small the DNA database CODIS is in relation to the U.S. population and that it only contains the U.S. population. Based on those shows they always to seem to have a DNA match up with someone. It is also interesting how police can use databases to enhance their search for criminals.

  • March 1, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    I’ve always been curious about Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System and how large a database of such sort would be. Overall I enjoyed your presentation. Good topic!

  • March 5, 2014 at 11:39 am

    This is a very good topic for student to know more the used of Database by the police. I think the database helps a lot when police catches the crimes.

  • March 8, 2014 at 11:10 am

    This article brings a lot of information that is not so publicized to the forefront. Many people hear about the uses of technology by the government from TV shows and news stories but they are usually just references. It is nice to truly get information about how databases and technology are actually implemented by different state resources i.e police, fire, government admin etc. This article is insightful and I look forward to hearing more about this subject.

  • March 11, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    I took a forensic class in high school. The CODIS was one the topics that really interested in, mainly because it has DNA examples of millions if not billions of people in this world. I also feel like that the CODIS probably has everyone’s DNA instead of just criminals.

  • March 17, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    It is very interesting that database is used by every organizations and can be done so in very different ways. The use of database to create a safer world via DNA, Bio-metrics/fingerprints, and just connecting police report. I thought the bio-metric data was the most interesting and would like to know how they gather such data.

  • March 17, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    I thought this was a really good topic because it brings forward another one of the ways that databases are used that people don’t generally think about. Databases are a big part in criminal justice today, especially with all these new TV shows today such as Law and order that bring more and more attention to things like DNA that we are now capable of using to catch criminals thanks to databases and new technology. However, with this comes the same old argument of ethics and privacy that we as people always seem to differ in opinion with in relation to our government.

  • March 18, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    I always knew that these government agencies had some kind of database on storing all theses criminals. It was a great presentation on how you can peer into the agencies and see how they work on the inside and how we as students can be part of a huge organization such as the FBI or CIA.

  • March 18, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    This was an extremely interesting article to read. I’m really interested in things like this and I had never heard of CODIS before. It’s frightening to think what the government is keeping on us, for a time when they might use it against us. Big Brother is watching.

  • March 19, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    It was very interesting topic. I really want to know how to government collect and handle people’s data, and each department can have relationship with the data. Controlling The database very important to people who live in the U.S.

  • March 19, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Actually, was very interested in this topic it was interesting to see how law enforcement used data in the fight against crime. It really puts into perspective on what power the government really has and how they could easily turn it against us.

  • March 20, 2014 at 4:19 am

    This article makes me want to research more into forensics. It blows my mind how much the government has information on criminals. This is very beneficial because it can prevent future crimes or can aid in the capture of criminals. I’ve always watched many crime shows and movies but i have never thought about the database system that is involved in this.

  • March 20, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    This was a very good presentation. It is interesting to know that databases play a huge role in our law enforcement agencies. I did not know there where three different databases that were being used and how they all work together to bring up accurate results even if one database does not contain the needed information.

  • March 20, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    I used to work for the Los Angeles Sheriff Department, and your article brought back memories. We used variety of systems LARCIS, CHEERS, and CROSSROADS that used the same concepts as you have pointed out but at more localized level.

  • March 20, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    This article is extremely interesting because it gives us an insight on how we are protected by databases, and which kinds of databases are in action. I, for one, did not know of the extensive amounts of databases that exist out there to keep record of anyone we should be worried about.

  • March 20, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    this article is interesting to me because how the FBI and Police using databases to track down the criminal by scanning images on social network. i didn’t realize how much this save their time for them and how accurate the result came out and great presentation.

  • March 20, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Very Interesting article about these three databases mention, unknown to me that might have a lot of information of many individuals from around the world and also within US. Which are very useful for prevention of crimes and to locate and capture criminals and person of interest related to different cases of crimes and issues related to national security and international awareness. As well of all of this technologies use to detect and recognize persons involved in criminal acts.

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