Police officers across the U.S. misuse confidential law enforcement databases to get information on romantic partners, business associates, neighbors, journalists, and others for reasons that have nothing to do with daily police work, the Associated Press reports.. Criminal-history and driver databases give officers critical information about people they encounter on the job. The AP’s review shows how those systems are “exploited by officers who, motivated by romantic quarrels, personal conflicts or voyeuristic curiosity, sidestep policies and sometimes the law by snooping.” Some officers have used information to stalk or harass, or have tampered with or sold records they obtained.
Record-keeping inconsistencies make it impossible to know how many violations occur. AP, via records requests to state agencies and big-city police departments, found law enforcement officers and employees who misused databases were fired, suspended, or resigned more than 325 times between 2013 and 2015. They received reprimands, counseling or lesser discipline in more than 250 instances. Among those punished were an Ohio officer who pleaded guilty to stalking an ex-girlfriend and who looked up information on her; a Michigan officer who looked up home addresses of women he found attractive. and two Miami-Dade officers who ran checks on a journalist after he aired unflattering stories about the department. “It’s personal. It’s your address. It’s all your information, it’s your Social Security number, it’s everything about you,” said Alexis Dekany, whose ex-boyfriend, a former Akron officer, pleaded guilty to stalking her. “And when they use it for ill purposes to commit crimes against you — to stalk you, to follow you, to harass you … it just becomes so dangerous.”