The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation has missed a few improper uses of the Division of Criminal Information network, according to a report in a Raleigh newspaper. The DCI network houses local, state and federal data gathered from police and prisons, courts and drivers’ records. This network supplied all the information to that officer who pulled a friend over and gave him a speeding ticket last week.
The traffic stop was an appropriate use of the DCI network. The information is meant to help law enforcement officers carry out their official duties. Using the network for personal reasons, though, is a violation of state and federal rules. The newspaper uncovered a few instances of SBI officials breaking those rules, as well as a few failures to notice that other agencies had improperly used the criminal data.
The report cites the misdeeds of two high-ranking SBI officials, both of whom had some responsibility for DCI network oversight. One of them, who has since retired, had run dozens of searches between 2007 and 2009 for his own use. The other ran just a couple checks for personal use.
What’s disturbing about the abuse — especially in the case of the man who retired — is the nature of their non-work-related searches. This man, who was going through a divorce, ran queries on his estranged wife and her coworkers. He also searched on a woman’s license plate number, through that search discovered her driver’s license number, then her name and finally her picture. When reporters contacted the woman, she said she didn’t know who the former SBI official was or why he would be looking for information about her.
At other times, the man ran queries on members of his church, some of whom stated he was doing background checks on potential church employees. The motive may have been harmless in this instance, but the DCI network access was still improper. An employment check does not qualify as a legitimate criminal justice or law enforcement purpose.
Normally, such misuse would result in the man being fired. In this case, another SBI official ordered a check into this man’s use of the system. A month later, he resigned.
Continued in our next post.
Source: Raleigh News & Observer, “Two senior SBI officials snooped improperly,” Joseph Neff and Mandy Locke, 03/20/11