A Minnesota investigation has found that police in the Land of 10,000 lakes are using the state's DMV database like non-cop internet perverts use Facebook — as their own stalking wonderland, a veritable cornucopia of pictures of unsuspecting hotties ripe for the gawking. One woman was horrified to discover that without permission, more than 100 police accessed her driver's license photo 425 times. And she's far from alone.
According to Jessica Lussenhop of Citypages, Anne Marie Rasmusson is alleging in a lawsuit that breaches of data like hers happen all the time. One officer told Lussenhop that officers won't think twice about looking anyone up for any reason at all, and that thanks to the presence of information portals at individual workstations, officers do it all the time.
Sometimes "mission creep" is done for laughs — one heavily pierced Minnesotan often has his DMV photo accessed because of his early 90's Lollapalooza freak show appearance — but some data breaches are done for more sinister reasons. A female officer was charged with a misdemeanor after she illegally accessed the information of a romantic rival on police computers and proceeded to harass her with calls and texts.
Rasmusson was herself a police officer before an on-the-job injury that left her unable to sit in a squad car for long periods of time eventually sidelined her. After she left the force, she began training for fitness competitions, and that's when shit got weird. Lussenhop reports,
Rasmusson also began receiving unsolicited dating offers from cops. An officer she'd met briefly years before texted her asking if she'd like to go boating. Confused by such a forward invitation from someone she could barely remember, she texted back, "I think you have the wrong Anne." Moments later, the reply arrived: "I've definitely got the right Anne."
Before long, she stopped seeing a man she'd been out with a couple of times. He didn't take it well, and continued calling, even cruising by her house. In a series of texts, the man said his friend, another police officer, had "filled him in" on her past, her dating life, and even the kind of car she was driving.
Comments from police officers who shouldn't have known personal information about her kept coming in. Rasmusson eventually moved, changed her phone number, switched gyms, and told her family not to tell people where she lived. But the calls kept coming. Finally, she'd had enough and asked the Department of Public Safety to put a hold on her driver's licence to keep it from being accessed by police officers. When she was told that was impossible, she asked someone in data management to look into what was going on with her data. Sure enough, 104 cops from 18 different departments had looked her up nearly 500 times. A massive internal investigation was launched. Some creeping cops received formal suspensions, but other officers weren't punished at all.
Police creepiness is nothing new, nor is it unique to Minnesota. Many moons ago, my car was vandalized while parked on a Chicago city street. When police officers arrived to fill out a report, one of them complimented my legs and then asked me to sit in the back of their car (I complied, because they were cops, there was two of them, it was after dark, I was cold, and I was only 23 and didn't know any better), where they forced me to watch an entire episode of The Wire and kept looking back to make sure I was paying attention. The next day, one of them called me to ask me on a date, and kept calling me daily for a few weeks. I hadn't given him my phone number in a non-official capacity, which means he'd used information gleaned from filling out a crime report for personal reasons. I got the impression it wasn't the first time he'd pulled something like that, but I didn't want to make trouble, so rather than filing a report, I just didn't pick up the phone when I saw his number and hoped it would go away on its own. For me, it did. As for Rasmusson, she's concerned that her lawsuit will put her in jeopardy and reports feeling unsafe in her own home. The unauthorized viewings of her information have diminished, but that doesn't mean her sense of security has returned.
In an age of information, it's disturbing to know that our photos, phone numbers, and address information can be looked up by any police officer interested in getting rocks off, revenge, or a date. But the case of Ann Marie Rasmusson does make a strong case for deliberately taking an ugly driver's licence license photo.