Police

St. Louis County Cops Accused of Unauthorized, Possibly Politically Motivated Criminal Background Checks

County chief insists he's not alleging the county executive did something wrong, only that the cops may have

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all your database are belong to them
Steve NotReally/Photobucket

Two St. Louis county police officers who were assigned to the detail of County Executive Charles Dooley have had their access to a criminal database suspended while an investigation over whether they were running unauthorized background checks, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The officers are specifically accused of running such a check on a former candidate for the police board, a body that's theoretically supposed to supervise officers. The Dispatch reports:

Questions first arose in October when Dooley's chief of staff, Garry Earls, announced to the county council that a criminal background check into former police board candidate David Spence had come back clean, County Chief Tim Fitch said.

Fitch said he had questioned how the county administration would know that information because he didn't believe it was his officers' place to run the checks.

"I thought it was inappropriate because we answer to police board members and we should not be doing any background checks on our own supervisors," he said.

Further investigation revealed that at least one of the two officers assigned to Dooley's detail had run Spence's name unbeknownst to Fitch, he said.

"That's when we asked ourselves, 'Who else is he running?'?" Fitch said.

Fitch insisted he's not claiming the elected official Dooley did anything wrong, and that the investigation is focused on whether the two officers did. He said, however, that he was also interested in who may have asked them to run the checks (Dooley? duh?).  As part of Dooley's detail, they were stationed in the office of the county executive. Access to the criminal database was meant to assess threats against the county executive, and Fitch noted that all searches are only illegal if done for "criminal justice purposes."

File this one as just one more reason you should be worried about expansive government databases even if you think you have nothing to hide.

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  1. I think this post is apropos, considering the misuse of data-gathering which has become so omnipresent in society.

    https://reason.com/blog/2013/05…..nt_3720741

  2. Fitch insisted he’s not claiming the elected official Dooley did anything wrong, and that the investigation is focused on whether the two officers did.

    Oh, those poor officers. Not connected as well as their boss. I’m Fitch is no doubt wondering if his background has been run.

  3. Wait a minute, background checks before you’re allowed to take public office. After all, the politician passing a law is one of the most dangerous weapons in society.

  4. Fitch noted that all searches are only illegal if done for “criminal justice purposes.”

    Eh?

  5. AltText intermixing memes is like end of the world Total Protonic Reversal bad.

  6. all searches are only illegal if done for “criminal justice purposes.”

    So if you do it for the purpose of ruining a persons reputation or for harassment it is legal?

    1. Or if you were just looking for nude pictures of the person.

    2. Ignorance of the law. Fitch, typical of the cowardly petty bureaucrat, has merely misquoted or invented a legal provision which either doesn’t exist or is flat wrong.

  7. “Fitch noted that all searches are only illegal if done for “criminal justice purposes”

    Well, ok. I think I understood what happened now. Or, wait.

    I have a vague memory of a past where journalists made things *less* confusing. I think that show was called “Kolchak: The Night Stalker”

    1. Even Kolchak made things more confusing once they got a few episodes in. The made for TV movie was pretty fun, though.

  8. and we should not be doing any background checks on our own supervisors

    Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, right?

    1. which was the closing line to the post.

      /derp

  9. “Fitch noted that all searches are only illegal if done for “criminal justice purposes.””

    Illegal to solve crime?

  10. What? No way man who does that dud think he is.

    http://www.AnonStuffz.tk

  11. Cant these heroes catch a break…surely they were doing this to prevent a crime

  12. No one in St. Louis would *ever* call the St. Louis Post-Dispatch “the Dispatch.” It’s either the Post-Dispatch or the Post.

    There’s also some context here that I don’t believe the Reason editor knows about that might be useful for understanding this situation.

    Fitch called the FBI in last year to report a police board member who owned a company that had a subcontract for work on the county’s new crime lab; there are now several ongoing FBI investigations into county operations, and Fitch and Dooley have been publicly at odds since that time. How did the newspaper find out about an internal police investigation? The political motivation might go both ways: Dooley is facing an election challenge this year from a fellow Democrat that has aligned with the county prosecutor and the police chief. This is Fitch’s last week in office before he retires tomorrow, so it’s also theoretically his last week to weigh in on anything to the press as the Chief.

    That said, Spence was actually Dooley’s own nominee to the police board; therefore, if Dooley had ordered the background check, it wouldn’t necessarily have been politically motivated, other than to back up his view that Spence was a good police board candidate. Spence ended up backing out as a police board nominee due to some new restrictions the County Council placed on potential nominees, including a background and credit check that could be made public under the Sunshine Law.

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