Questions About Police Use of 'Interview Card'

If you're like most people, you may have handed over some of your most personal and sensitive information to a Montgomery Police officer and never even realized it.

And get this; officers take that information from you even when they don't charge you with as little as a traffic offense.

With so many people seeing their identities stolen, you have to ask - is this a good idea, and is it legal?

It happens every day.

A Montgomery police officer pulls someone just like you over, and if you haven't violated traffic or other laws too badly, they'll let you off with a warning. But before you go, the officer will write something down most people have no idea about.

"You're asking about the field interview card," said Capt. Huey Thornton.

It's an index card designed to collect some of your most sensitive personal information.

We showed one to a professor at Faulkner University's Jones School of Law.

"It's unique. I didn't know this existed," said professor Chad Emerson.

Thornton said the card itself is not a threat to personal information.

"Those 'FI' cards do not have any more information on them than a traffic ticket," he said.

Not exactly.

About midway down, the card has a space for your social security number, a place for something called 'oddities,' even a place for your work address and phone number.

So, why are police doing this?

"Basically it's a tool used to gather intelligence on individuals traveling through certain areas of town in particular areas where we have seen burglaries or thefts," said Thornton.

But some people have concerns about the card.

Professor Emerson says it all depends on whether police tell you they're taking those notes.

"If you say, yeah, i'm fine with providing this information, then that's a whole different equation," said Emerson.   "If you don't know you're providing this information or that it's going to be recorded and kept, there's legitimate concerns there,"

Thornton says there's also little oversight of who police write notes on.

"It's the officer's discretion when to fill one of these cards out," said Thornton.

That's a serious thought when you remember four years ago, three policemen handed over another officers old ID photo to a drug dealer's lawyers in exchange for money.

Thornton says that was a rarity.

"The room for someone to use or misuse an interview card is minimal," he said.

But does the public know what police are doing? It appears the vast majority don't.

Capt. Thornton says Montgomery Police have used this technique for almost thirty years, and he says no one has ever complained about it.

But in fairness, that also might be true because the public had no idea it was happening.

Professor Chad Emerson says that while police have a right to collect information for crime fighting purposes, officers should tell the public when they do write down personal information, especially the social security number.