OLYMPIA — The Washington State Patrol has disclosed numerous instances in which officers were disciplined between 2013 and 2015 for misusing confidential law enforcement databases.
The Associated Press identified through a public records request more than 30 cases in which officers appeared to have either improperly sought information on other people or used databases for expressly personal purposes.
The violations concern misuse of the patrol’s ACCESS data system. That system, which is meant exclusively for law enforcement purposes, holds records related to criminal investigations and vehicle registration. Agencies are expected to alert the state when they suspect misuse.
The violations were reported in agencies large and small and involved both low-ranking employees and senior-level command staff. The AP count does not include a handful of other instances in which the violations seemed more technical in nature, or cases where the records were ambiguous.
Among the cases reported by the state: A Port Orchard police officer was accused in 2013 of running the license plate of a woman he found attractive to discover information about her, according to an incident report, and a Spokane police employee was accused of checking the name of a woman he was dating.
Other records produced by the state show that a Kirkland police officer self-reported that she ran the license plate of her ex-husband, and an Auburn police commander was accused of querying a license plate and providing information to a friend who had been involved in a hit-and-run accident.
In addition, the records say, an Edmonds police employee was found to have run the names of his parents and issued a reprimand, and a sheriff’s office employee in Grant County was reported to have looked up friends, relatives and “women he was interested in,” according to an incident report provided by the state.
More broadly, the AP’s review found that officers across the country have misused law enforcement databases hundreds of times to look up information on ex-romantic partners, relatives, celebrities and others.