Officers accessing private records still a common problem, Police Complaints Commission says

Complaints against cops illegally accessing private police records is one of the most common handled by the authority that oversees offences by officers in B.C., said its spokesman.

“We still get a couple dozen a year,” said Rollie Woods, spokesman for the Office of Police Complaints Commission.

“For some reason, it still seems to pop up. The problem is one of the more common ones.”

Police officers years ago would regularly use the computer databases out of “curiosity,” or to learn whether a potential tenant deals drugs or to look up the phone number for a date, he said.

“It’s frowned upon now and it’s considered very serious,” said Woods. “Officers can’t even look themselves up.”

He said police forces have updated their policy manuals to clearly forbid it.

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Penalties could range from a verbal reprimand to dismissal for repeat offences or if a member accessed the records on behalf of a gang member, for instance.

The latest incident the complaints office is overseeing regards a private investigation firm that admitted it had a New Westminster police officer look up an individual it was looking into in a child custody case.

The officer is being investigated internally by the New Westminster police department, said spokeswoman Sgt. Diana McDaniel.

She said she couldn’t name the officer because he hasn’t been charged with a crime.

“He’s not currently working right now but he’s not suspended. I don’t know about [whether he’s receiving] a paycheque but he’s not working right now,” she said.

The investigation is expected to last up to six months, said Woods.

Lions Gate Investigations Group owner Scot Filer admitted asking for police records was “inappropriate” and he paid the $115 fine, he said in an emailed statement.

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Filer, a former RCMP officer, said he wanted to “determine if one of the subjects of the investigation presented a risk to the child in question.”

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