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Fearing no punishment, Denver cops abuse crime databases for personal gain

Published: March 21, 2016
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Source: Ars Technica

Denver police officers performed searches on state and federal criminal justice databases that were not work-related and instead were made to help officers’ in the romance department and to assist friends, according to an independent department monitor. The report said that punishment, usually a written reprimand instead of being charged criminally, is not enough to deter future abuse of the National Crime information Center (NCIC) and the Colorado Crime Information Center (CCIC) databases.  

“When used appropriately, they can be powerful tools to investigate crime,” the report stated. “But the misuse of these databases for personal, non-law enforcement purposes may compromise public trust and result in harm to community members. We believe that the reprimands that are generally imposed on DPD (Denver Police Department) officers who misuse the databases do not reflect the seriousness of that violation, and may not sufficiently deter future misuse.”

The report by Independent Monitor Nicholas Mitchell listed a host of wrongful searches, including an officer getting a phone number of a woman he met on assignment, and an officer running the license plate of a man for a friend who then stalked that person. None of the 25 Denver officers who abused the crime databases were charged with any access crime. The harshest penalty was a three-day suspension. Civilians who accessed the databases without authorization, however, most likely would be charged with hacking.

The databases include criminal records, home address, and immigration status, as well as other personal information about victims of domestic violence who have obtained protection orders. Juvenile arrest records are also included.

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