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.