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How is SQL Used in Law Enforcement?

a hand writing structured query language on a chalkboard
What is SQL?

In regards to your records management system, you might have heard the term SQL. Generally, “SQL” is pronounced by the individual letters “S-Q-L,” but many database professionals opt for the phonetic pronunciation of “sequel.”

What does SQL stand for?

SQL stands for Structured Query Language. It is a programming language used for managing and manipulating relational databases. SQL is a standard language for interacting with databases, and it provides a set of commands for tasks such as querying data, updating data, inserting data, and deleting data in a database. It also includes commands for defining and modifying the structure of a database, such as creating and altering tables, indexes, and views.

How is SQL used?

SQL is used in various applications, from simple tasks like retrieving data from a database to complex operations like creating and managing large-scale databases used in enterprise systems. Some common database systems that use SQL include Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, and SQLite, among others.

SQL statements can be categorized into several primary groups:

  • Data Query Language (DQL): These statements retrieve data from a database. The primary DQL statement is the SELECT statement, which retrieves data from one or more tables.

  • Data Definition Language (DDL): DDL statements are used to define and manage the structure of a database. They include statements like CREATE, ALTER, and DROP for tables, indexes, and other database objects.

  • Data Manipulation Language (DML): DML statements manipulate data within a database. Common DML statements include INSERT (to add new data), UPDATE (to modify existing data), and DELETE (to remove data).

  • Data Control Language (DCL): DCL statements are used to control access to data within a database. They include statements like GRANT (to give permissions) and REVOKE (to remove permissions).

How does SQL relate to my records management system?

If your records management system is using a relational database, there is an excellent chance that you are using SQL daily. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples utilizing the previously mentioned categories (Note – These are general examples, and syntax can vary between database systems):

  • If you’re performing a query in your records management system, a SELECT statement (DQL) finds and returns results matching your search criteria.

    • Search – Vehicle(s) with license plate of “ABC1234”

    • SQLSELECT vehicle.licenseplate, vehicle.licenseplatestate,, vehicle.year from vehicle where vehicle.licenseplate=’ABC1234’

  • Suppose your records management vendor provides software updates. In that case, they will use CREATE, ALTER, and DROP statements (DDL) to add, change, or delete data related to database items like tables, views, and indexes.

    • Change – The FBI adds a new required field for Use of Force Reporting.

    • SQLALTER TABLE UOF_SUBJECT ADD GenderIdentity varchar(255);

  • If you are actively adding or changing data in your records management system, INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE statements (DML) are used to complete these tasks.

    • Change – A user needs to update the weight from “200” to “245” pounds for a contact.

    • SQL UPDATE PERSON, SET Weight=’245’ where person.personid=’1052158’

  • Your records management vendor will use GRANT and REVOKE statements (DCL) to control access to database objects like tables and views.

    • Change – Your vendor creates a new database view called “CRIMEHISTORY” and needs to give everyone SELECT access from this object.


As you can see, SQL is an essential tool for working with relational databases. It’s used by database administrators, developers, data analysts, and even end-users to interact with and manage data in a structured and organized way. To learn more about SQL, check out the W3 Schools SQL Tutorial at


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