An investigation from 10 Tampa Bay has led to a bill that would change training for every law enforcement officer in the state.
10 Investigates exposed how some government workers were abusing their access to your sensitive personal information in November 2020. You can check out the full story, Abuse of Access, here.
State leaders took notice. Now, they’re taking action.
Our investigation showed how some government workers, including law enforcement officers, were abusing their access to Florida’s Driver and Vehicle Information Database, known as DAVID.
DAVID gives users access to every Florida driver’s license number, address, signature, medical and disability information, Social Security number, date of birth, vehicle information, and emergency contact info.
“It’s information that obviously could be used in identity theft, or it could be used for some nefarious purpose if it was leaked out,” Lakeland Police Chief Ruben Garcia explained to 10 Investigates last year.
DAVID is meant to be a tool for government agencies and law enforcement officers to confirm information about Florida drivers, but 10 Investigates discovered some government employees were using the database to gather information for personal reasons.
More than 900 state and local workers have gotten caught misusing that access since 2015, some using it to track their former romantic partners.
Eva Kennedy’s ex-boyfriend used DAVID to look her up in 2019.
“It’s kind of odd that he would just seek me out after 20-something years to find out where I’m at and what I’m doing,” Kennedy told 10 Investigates.
“Thank you and your colleagues for letting the rest of us know that this, occasionally, is an issue,” State Senator Ed Hooper of Palm Harbor told 10 Investigates’ Jenna Bourne in a virtual interview Monday.
Senator Hooper’s bill will help prevent people from misusing state databases like DAVID in two ways. First, it would quadruple penalties for government workers who misuse electronic databases from $500 to $2,000. Second, it would require officers to get more training on how to use those databases appropriately.
“To me, repetition is a form of emphasis. So at least now, initially and every year, every sworn officer is going to know that this database is there for a reason. And it’s there for only that reason and nothing else. Stay out of it unless you are there for the reason that it was intended to do,” said Hooper.
The bill sailed through its first committee hearing, the Criminal Justice Committee, in the state Senate on Tuesday.
We’ll keep track of the bill and let you know if and when it hits the Governor’s desk.
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