Denver Police have been abusing the confidential database in their department for personal reasons — as in trying to get dates and to “enable stalking.”
According to the report by the Denver Office of the Independent Monitor, which assessed law enforcement performance for 2015, officers often faced only minor oral or written reprimands for their transgressions. But this discipline could be seen as disproportionate to the potential harm caused by breaching the database for unofficial, unsanctioned purposes.
Both Denver Police and Sheriff’s Department were evaluated by the monitor, and both were found to have abused the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and Colorado Crime Information Center (CCIC).
“NCIC and CCIC are sensitive criminal justice databases that contain significant amounts of personal information … 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,” the report stated.
In fact, as noted by the monitor’s report, some information in those databases may be “sensitive or confidential. For example, it includes home addresses, and immigration status information, as well as certain personal information about victims of domestic violence who have obtained protection orders.” Recent changes also include sensitive criminal information, such as “certain juvenile arrest records.”
One officer was found to have used the database to aid a friend in identifying the man he thought his wife had been seeing. To help his buddy, the unidentified officer ran the man’s license plate. But the situation got out of hand, possibly enabling violence by the ex-husband. According to 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, 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.”
In another instance, an officer went to a hospital to investigate a reported sexual assault. He made “small talk” with a female hospital employee not involved in the investigation after interviewing the victim.
“At the end of her shift, the female employee returned home and found a voicemail message from the officer on her personal phone. She had not given the officer her phone number, and was upset that he had obtained it (she assumed) by improperly using law enforcement computer systems,” stated the report.
Though the extent of abuse of the database system is unclear — officers are only reprimanded when a complaint is filed — the monitor’s report urged a shift toward harsher penalties.
As the Huffington Post recalled, “Other officers across the nation have used the NCIC for less-than-official reasons. In 2013, various New York Police Department officers were accused of using the database for personal gain, including officers who tipped off drug dealers, staged robberies, and, in one particularly gruesome case, planned how to abduct and cannibalize women.”