As unlawful as it sounds, acquiring someone’s personal information without their knowledge is not that complicated as long as you live in Denver, Colorado, and are in cahoots with a police officer who has access to National Crime Information Center.
A new report by police watchdog Independent Monitor, released Tuesday, has shed light on an appalling misuse of power and authority at the hands of law enforcement agencies. As it turns out, some of the Denver’s finest have been trolling the database used by tens of thousands of officials across the country to catch criminals, recover stolen property and identify terror suspects.
Although its basic purpose is to provide information on stolen guns and cars, fugitives and sex offenders, the cops in Denver are exploiting the confidential database to get their hands on women’s phone numbers and addresses.
However, what makes the matter worse is the fact these officers mostly get away with a slap on the wrist for their actions, which allows the abuse to continue. The report revealed while 25 Denver officers have been punished for inappropriate use of the databases in last decade, most of them received reprimands rather than the harsher penalties the police impose for such offense. Also, none of the 25 was charged with a crime even though improperly accessing the database can result in an officer's termination depending on the situation.
“The misuse of these databases for personal, non-law enforcement purposes may compromise public trust and result in harm to community members,” claims the report. “We believe that the reprimands that are generally imposed on DPD officers who misuse the databases do not reflect the seriousness of that violation, and may not sufficiently deter future misuse.”
Apart from being dangerous, it is also a disgusting breach of privacy.
The Independent Monitor also cited cases where officer accessed the sensitive data — including an instance where a cop looked up the phone number of a paramedic he met during a sex assault investigation and called her home number against her wishes. Another incident involved an officer running a license plate number through the system so a friend could threaten the owner.
Since most police departments don’t conduct audits on each officer’s use of the database, it’s hard to tell how widespread the problem is. However, the cases cited in the report clearly show the strong need for punishment and retraining.