GRAND JURY FINDS DRIVER’S LICENSE INFORMATION WAS USED BY POLICE TO PERPETRATE ID THEFT

The U.S. Attorney’s office in the Middle District of Florida has linked improper police use of the Florida driver’s license database to IRS fraud. Apparently personal information of thousands of Floridians was compromised in an identity theft scheme to defraud that originated from the Tampa police department. A federal grand jury is now looking at possible indictments against members of the Tampa police department reportedly including a fired Tampa homicide detective who allegedly used information gleaned from homicide victims to perpetrate tax fraud and Identity theft. 

For too long police officers have abused their access to personal information of citizens. It’s long been a problem in the Tampa Bay area. Recently a Sergeant with the Clearwater Police Department was found to have used the DAVID drivers license database to gain personal information about other officer’s wives. Officers have also been disciplined for misusing the information for personal benefit in many other ways. 

Ultimately the problem is exasperated in that too many inessential officers have access to the database, this leads to casual use and abuse of the database. The database should be handled with the same care given to the property room where evidence of crimes is kept until needed for trial. Only officers who establish a need to be in the property room are granted entry. Logs are kept of time of entry and leaving with what was taken out. Video cameras record what officers do when in the property room.

If evidence in a cocaine case can be kept safe, so can our personal information. Officers should have to submit daily lists of what information was collected with justification for the need for the information to a superior. Any use without justification should result in an immediate investigation of the officer. If the police are unable to safely guard the personal information in their care, then the information should be taken from every law enforcement officer who has no special need for it and given only upon a showing of proper need to a judge.

Everyone can agree that any clear misuse of the database should result in firing. However, law enforcement officers who misuse the database should not be shielded from criminal prosecution.