The vast databases maintained by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies would be pretty creepy even if cops strictly used them the way they were intended. If only that were the case!
An officer with the Denver Police Department allegedly used the National Crime Information Center, a database of personal information used in criminal investigations, to help his friend harass the supposed new lover of his ex-wife. The Huffington Post pulled the allegation from an internal report on the Denver PD’s performance in 2015. From the report:
Shortly thereafter, the ex-husband began driving by the man’s house and threatening him. The ex-husband also found and contacted the man’s wife to tell her that the man was having an affair. The ex-husband told the wife that he knew their home address, showed her a picture of the man’s car, and asked her questions about the man to find out what gym he worked out at, what shift he worked, and where he spent his leisure time.
This is not the only time this type of thing has happened. The report also documents an officer who used the database to hit on a woman he met on the job. And as HuffPo notes, New York’s infamous “cannibal cop” was accused of using police databases to investigate potential victims.
The Denver cop who aided the stalker only received a formal written reprimand for his behavior, and the desperate romantic officer was fined two days pay. The report, which was authored by an independent monitor of the department, advocated for harsher punishment for abusing the database. That sounds right.
Just like everyone else, cops can’t help taking personal advantage of every last perk their jobs afford them. The difference is that when you or I do it, the only victims are our coworkers who show up to work the next day and find there are no more fruit snacks in the office kitchen, because we’ve stuffed them all into our briefcases. For these cops, an enormous trove of personal information about law-abiding people is just another workplace amenity to be abused.