NCIC Violent Person File
In the United States between 2018 and 2021, more than 200,000 officers were assaulted while performing their duties. During the last 5 years, nearly 300 have died from injuries incurred in the line of duty during felonious incidents. Sadly, 24 percent of those deaths occurred in 2021 alone, making it the year with the highest rate of officer deaths in more than 20 years.1 This data is troubling and highlights the need for efforts to increase the safety of officers.
To this end, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is an information-sharing system containing records from federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial criminal justice agencies nationwide. Since its inception in 1967, the mission of NCIC has remained steadfast — improve law enforcement information sharing with the purpose of enhancing safety for officers and the public. Within NCIC, several categories of records, or files, were developed exclusively for officer safety. Although many NCIC files provide data to enhance officer safety, one was created specifically for that purpose.
In 2012, in response to a rise in law enforcement officers injured or killed in the line of duty, the FBI created the NCIC Violent Person File (VPF) to provide a location to house information on violent individuals. Prior to the creation of the VPF, agencies had no opportunity to enter data into NCIC on individuals with the propensity for violence against law enforcement, and this potentially put officers’ lives in danger. When the VPF is queried and a positive result is returned, it gives officers an alert when an individual they encounter may have the inclination for violence against law enforcement.
To provide officers with these potentially lifesaving alerts, violent individuals must first be entered into the VPF. Entry into the file is based on an individual’s previous violent convictions and/or expressed intent to commit violence against a member of the law enforcement or criminal justice community. More specifically, an agency should enter an individual into the VPF when at least one of several criteria has been met.
- The offender has been convicted of assault or murder/homicide of a law enforcement officer, fleeing, resisting arrest, or any such statute that involves violence against law enforcement.
- The offender has been convicted of a violent offense against a person, including homicide and attempted homicide.
- The offender has been convicted of a violent offense against a person in which a firearm or weapon was used.
- A law enforcement agency, based on its official investigatory duties, reasonably believes that the individual has seriously expressed his or her intent to commit an act of unlawful violence against a member of the law enforcement or criminal justice community.
Entry based on the first three criteria requires a conviction, which can be at the misdemeanor level. For the fourth criterion, entry only requires a reasonable belief, based on law enforcement investigation, of expressed intent to commit violence against a member of the law enforcement or criminal justice community. VPF records do not expire — once entered, the record will remain active until the entering agency cancels it.
Multiple agencies may enter the same individual into the VPF. Interactions reported by more than one agency about a single individual could result in additional valuable and lifesaving information. Therefore, when the criteria for entry into the VPF are met, an agency should make an entry into the file. The only restriction is that each entry must be from a different originating agency — a single agency cannot enter the same individual into the VPF multiple times. Multiple entries for single individuals provide officers with a more comprehensive picture of the persons they encounter.
The VPF has mandatory and optional data fields for record entries. Optional fields give agencies the opportunity to supply valuable information such as aliases, vehicle or license plate data, caution indicators, and additional personal descriptors. When agencies enter all available data into a VPF record, including in the optional fields, it assists in officer safety by providing record recipients the most information on the individual they encounter.
For example, one of the most common uses of NCIC is during roadside traffic stops in which officers initially query the system with license plate information before interacting with a driver. If the driver is a violent offender and has a record in the VPF that includes optional license plate data, the response will give officers the opportunity to deploy additional safety measures prior to encountering the individual.
Inquiry and Response
To foster law enforcement safety, when an agency submits a query of the NCIC’s Wanted Person File and Vehicle File, the VPF is cross-checked. If a VPF record exists, NCIC will return a caveat prior to all NCIC records.
Warning: A subject in this response has been identified as a violent offender or serious threat to law enforcement officers. Review this response in its entirety to obtain additional information on this subject. Use extreme caution in approaching this individual.
In addition to the initial warning, a positive VPF record response will begin with a caveat specific to the criteria through which the individual encountered was entered. This additional caveat provides law enforcement officers insight into why the individual was entered into the VPF. It indicates whether the subject has a criminal history of assaulting law enforcement officers, using weapons to commit violent offenses, committing or attempting homicide, or being deemed a serious threat to officers. Armed with this knowledge, the officer can take extra precautions or call for backup, as appropriate, before approaching the individual.
Although the use of NCIC is voluntary, participation is vital. Information must be entered into the Violent Person File before it can benefit law enforcement. Complete, accurate, and timely entry of records is essential to ensure system integrity and affords law enforcement officers the utmost protection. While a positive VPF response alone is not probable cause for an officer to arrest the person in question, it serves as an alert for officers.
“Prior to the creation of the VPF, agencies had no opportunity to enter data into NCIC on individuals with the propensity for violence against law enforcement, and this potentially put officers’ lives in danger.”
Further information about the Violent Person File can be obtained through the NCIC Community on JusticeConnect, accessible via the Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (LEEP). Resources include the NCIC Operating Manual; NCIC NIEM XML Policy Manual; and an e-learning module regarding the VPF and other NCIC files. Local Criminal Justice Information Services Systems Agencies also serve as an excellent resource.2
Regarding training, agencies should contact the NCIC Training Team at 877-FBI-NCIC (877-324-6242) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime Data Explorer, accessed October 30, 2023, https://cde.ucr.cjis.gov/LATEST/webapp/#/pages/home; and U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, LEOKA, accessed October 30, 2023, https://ucr.fbi.gov/leoka.
2 For additional information, see Kelly O’Brien, “What Does It Mean to be CJIS Compliant?” Compass IT Compliance, December 1, 2022, https://www.compassitc.com/blog/what-does-it-mean-to-be-cjis-compliant.