Patrol officers have laptops in their vehicles these days. And they aren’t using them to play solitaire or update Facebook (at least not that we know of). But in addition to using them for “official business”, it turns out many are accessing citizen’s private information with no justifiable cause.
The Driving and Vehicle Information Database (DAVID) is normally used to help police identify people—suspects, accident victims, and the like. It includes information like a person’s address, phone number, vehicles, and photo. It could also lead officers to the information necessary to run a background check and generally snoop.
While the system is useful in many cases, and its use is justified, a report from the Orlando Sentinel reveals that cops are routinely accessing information they have no business with.
In 2012, 74 police officers were suspected of misusing information in DAVID. That marks a 400 percent increase from 2011, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
So, who are they searching and why? Well, one police sergeant is accused of using the system to access information about a bank teller he had been flirting with. He ran 19 searches for her information.
Other names being searched include high profile ones including Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman. But, the truth of the matter is, it’s hard to know just how often DAVID records are being accessed without cause. Abuse could be far more rampant than the department is letting on, or even knows about.
“It’s unclear exactly how many law-enforcement officers in Florida misuse DAVID each year without being detected or reported to authorities.”
And there’s really no clear reason why the number of those accessed increased so much over the past year. It’s possible that a good percentage of them, however, can be attributed to a single woman.
Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Donna “Jane” Watts has filed a federal lawsuit against more than 100 officers and their respective agencies for DAVID violations. After she was in the media for pulling over an erratically driving officer, her information was accessed in DAVID more than 200 times. When you consider the state admits to only 74 officers misusing DAVID last year, it makes sense that most of these were only discovered after Watts’ complaint, and those 74 are likely only the tip of the iceberg.
We live in the age of information and it seems more and more of that private information is far more public than we would like. If regulations barring the behavior aren’t enough to keep nosy cops out of your records—what would stop them from using that information against you in some way?
When you are arrested, you are “on the other side of the law”. And when you are accused of a crime, you need someone on your side—looking out for your best interests. Whether you are charged with a drug offense, robbery, or a domestic violence crime—we may be able to help. Contact our offices today to discuss your rights and your legal options.