Officers abusing database system

Many officers used database system for personal use

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - This year, several officers in Florida came under fire for using a database system to look up people for personal reasons or interest, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

If a person is a registered driver in Florida, his or her personal information is in a database that any law enforcement officer can access.

It's against the law for an officer to use the database for personal use, and if caught doing this, the officer can face strict discipline or even be fired.

The system is monitored by FDLE. It's in place only for officers to look up victim and suspect information as it relates to an investigation, but some have been abusing that.

Almost every law enforcement agency in Florida uses David-Short for driving and vehicle information database.

A search of someone's name gives officers their driving history, address, picture, date of birth and prior citations.

The fairly detailed system can be a useful tool for officers in their investigations. That's the reason it's in place and some have abused that.

"I know there have been reports of agencies south of here where an officer had an interest in a particular female and he had her name and he ran the information for personal reasons and then that got back," Channel 4 crime analyst Ken Jefferson said.

Last year, more than 70 officers were suspected of wrongly using David, according to FDLE. This means they searched someone for personal and needless reasons.

"I'm really not surprised. I'm really not surprised," Jefferson said. "It goes on quite a bit. God forbid you'd get caught doing it, because you can face the severe repercussions of it. But it does happen. It does go on quite a bit."

Most officers have laptops in their patrol cars, which make it very easy access to David and someone's information.

"It's very tempting and it's very easy because the officers have access to the information, and all they need is a name and fill in a few fields," Jefferson said. "They can find out where you live, personal information as far as your age, date of birth, picture of you."

Officers who pull information or pictures from David for reasons other than an investigation can face criminal charges.

Searches are recorded by the state, but Jefferson said it's very easy for it to also go undetected.

Channel 4 also spoke with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office about the system and this finding.

Officials there say they've never had any officers disciplined for abusing David, and the agency has never been audited by FDLE.

Copyright 2013 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.