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Denver Cops Caught Using Crime Databases for Personal Gain

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on March 22, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is an online database of criminal justice information available to law enforcement agencies nationwide. Colorado has its own database, the Colorado Crime Information Center (CCIC). These databases are intended to assist law enforcement officers with criminal investigations.

Instead, some Denver cops were using the NCIC and CCIC to get phone numbers for romantic reasons, and to retrieve and hand out personal information to friends, tow truck drivers, and stalkers. And officers were rarely, if ever, getting punished for it.

Not Just Criminal Data

An annual report released by Denver's Office of the Independent Monitor cited multiple instances where Denver Police Department (DPD) officers used official crime databases for unofficial reasons. In one instance, a DPD officer used the NCIC, CCIC, and other DPD databases to get the private telephone number of a female hospital employee with whom he had casually chatted while investigating a sexual assault. The woman complained when the officer left her an "unwelcome voice message" that night.

In other cases, officers ran license plate checks for personal information, and passed that information on to friends or associates. One officer ran such a search for a friend going through a divorce after the friend saw a man sitting in a car outside his soon-to-be ex's house. Once the friend had the man's personal information, he proceeded to stalk him and harass the man's wife about the affair.

No Just Cop Discipline

A total of 25 officers were cited for abusing the crime databases. The Denver Police Department admitted that it does not regularly audit its officers' use of the databases; instead it only investigates complaints of abuse. And if investigations revealed misuse of the databases, most officers received only a slap on the wrist.

None of the officers in the report were charged with any illegal access crime. The officer who ran the license plate for a friend was given a written reprimand, and the officer who contacted the hospital staffer was docked just two days' pay. The Independent Monitor -- a civilian oversight agency -- recommended harsher punishments in order to deter officers from abusing law enforcement databases for personal use in the future.

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