In news that once again raises troubling questions about how authorities misuse private information, a Florida cop is under investigation by the FBI for allegedly using a police database to pick up women.
In June 2018, two parents called the Bradenton Police Department to report a “domestic incident” involving Bradenton Police Sgt. Leonel Marines, 36, who had allegedly followed their adult daughter home from a parking lot and demanded to speak with her. The parents, sensing something was off, refused to let him inside and asked for his identification and supervisor’s name. When he refused to provide either, they contacted the police department to report the incident to the watch commander on duty.
The complaint triggered an investigation that revealed Bradenton, who has been on the force for 12 years, has a longtime pattern of using a confidential police database as his own personal dating service, Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan told reporters in a press conference. The investigation found that Marines had “engaged in negative and inappropriate contact” with 150 women. A “majority” of these women “were Hispanic,” Bevan said.
“To get right to the root of the matter, Leonel Marines was not utilizing this data for law enforcement purposes whatsoever,” Bevan said. “Instead, he was using it in a variety of ways—from social media, cold telephone calls, visits to their home under the guise of being there for police business, you name it—trying to get dates with these women. He was very persistent and successful at times in his efforts to do so.”
Bevan said the internal investigation uncovered “misuse of criminal justice information, violations of our record security policy, and sex on duty.”
Marines resigned in October, after he was placed on desk duty through the investigation. The FBI has since initiated a criminal investigation into Marines.
This is not the first time, however, that someone had filed a complaint against Marines for inappropriate contact. The Bradenton Herald reports of a complaint filed in 2012:
At the time, a woman told police that Marines had shown up at her home on several occasions, asking her personal questions that seemed unrelated to any police investigation and she didn’t know him personally, according to the 2012 internal affairs report. The woman added that she didn’t know how Marines had gotten her personal information and that she had asked that he not come back.
... When questioned by the internal affairs investigator why he had accessed her information, Marines said “that there was no particular reason, that they had mutual friends and it was out curiosity.”
Marines was also questioned about why he had accessed the driver’s license information of eight other people, as revealed by the same audit. According to the report, Marines claimed that he didn’t recognize any of them and couldn’t remember if it was in connection to any case but that he had “no physical contact” with any of them.
The report concluded that while Marines “contacted or attempted to contact” the eight people, he did not have any verbal or physical contact with them. Marines was given a three-day suspension and then resumed his service, where he allegedly continued to prey on women through the database.
Bevan said Marines had “cast a dark shadow on our law enforcement profession,” and called the parents who reported him “heroes.”
“In this day and age, it takes a little bit of courage to tell a police officer standing at their door... ‘No, we don’t want to let you talk to our daughter because we don’t get the right feeling about this,’” she said.