Denver cops troll criminal databases for personal reasons

“The misuse of these databases for personal, non-law enforcement purposes may compromise public trust and result in harm to community members.” — Denver’s Office of the Community Monitor

Denver cops troll criminal databases for personal reasons

Maybe you’d like the name and address of the guy you suspect of sleeping with your wife. Or want dirt on your ex to use in a custody battle. Or are too shy to ask a woman you’re crushing on for her phone number.

If you happen to know a member of the Denver Police Department, you could be in luck.

According to a city report released today, some of Denver’s Finest have been misusing state and federal criminal databases to troll for community members’ information for non-law enforcement purposes.

As if cops mining data for personal reasons weren’t creepy enough, city officials have long downplayed the problem handing down all too mild disciplinary measures to officers abusing their power.

“…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 officers who misuse the databases do not reflect the seriousness of that violation, and may not sufficiently deter future misuse,” reads the 2015 annual report by Denver’s Office of the Independent Monitor.

Independent Monitor Nicholas Mitchell’s office investigated three Denver officers in 2015 for accessing the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and/or Colorado Crime Information Center (CCIC) databases either for their own, personal purposes, or as favors to friends. The databases contain confidential information — addresses, phone numbers, arrest records, immigration status, protection orders, and suspected gang affiliation – that’s often sensitive and under seal.

In one case, the buddy of a Denver cop asked him to run the license plate of a man the cop’s buddy suspected of having an affair with his wife. In another, a tow truck driver who does business with the department asked an officer to run information she hoped to use as ammunition in a custody battle with her daughter’s father. And in another incident, an officer ran the name of a hospital worker he met on duty, then called her at home to ask her on a date.

In each of the three cases, Mitchell’s office recommended discipline that was firmer than what the city’s Safety Department meted out.

Mitchell’s office identified a total of 43 complaints of unauthorized use of criminal databases over the past ten years. Allegations in 25 of those cases were confirmed. Of those 25, only 16 of the officers were reprimanded. And of those 16, eight officers were fined between 8 and 16 hours of pay, one was docked three days pay and seven merely received oral or written reprimands.

None faced criminal penalties – an option that’s provided for under city policy.

Photo credit: Toshiyuki IMAI, Creative Commons, Flickr

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About the Author

Susan Greene

A recovering newspaper journalist and Pulitzer finalist. Her criminal justice reporting includes “Trashing the Truth,” with Miles Moffeit, and “The Gray Box.” | 720-295-8006 | @greeneindenver

1 Comment

  1. Robert on said:

    the corruption of the police is complete…with the Police Unions in cahoots with republican strong arm policies, what could go wrong?

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