Government workers usually face little punishment if they’re caught misusing a Florida law enforcement database that contains sensitive personal data, according to a 10News investigative report. But Lakeland’s police department proved the exception: The police chief said an officer who was accused of using the database for personal reasons would have been fired if he hadn’t resigned.
Florida’s Driver And Vehicle Information Database includes driver license information, Social Security numbers, medical information and more. While it is intended to be used for law enforcement purposes, some government workers use it for personal snooping, such as spying on an ex, the station reports.
Former Lakeland Police Officer Christopher Hoo, who resigned after being accused of using the system to look up women he met on the job, would have been fired had he not resigned, Police Chief Ruben Garcia said.
“He can tender his resignation up and to the point that I would have terminated him. But he knew that was inevitable, and that’s notated in the file,” Garcia told 10 News. “Here at this agency, we are not going to tolerate it. We take our public trust very serious. And anything we do to breach that trust, there has to be discipline.”
Garcia also told investigative reporter Jenna Bourne that information in the state database “obviously could be used in identity theft, or it could be used for some nefarious purpose if it was leaked out. So, it’s critically important to us safeguarding our citizens, by safeguarding their information.”
Hoo, 49, joined LPD in 2015. He is being prosecuted for misusing the state database and declined a 10 Tampa Bay request for an interview, the station reported.
The station found only one other person criminally charged for misusing the system although more than 900 violations have been reported since 2015.