SIXTY FOUR police officers and staff have broken data protection laws by carrying out unauthorised background checks on people – with one searching force systems for “curiosity value”.
Fifty-six officers and civilian workers from Cleveland Police and eight from Durham Constabulary have been caught breaking the rules when it comes to checking up on people on force computer information systems between January 2009, and October last year.
Durham Police said one low-ranking member of police staff was dismissed after it was discovered they had searched police systems “for curiosity value”.
Detective Superintendent Jon Green, head of the Professional Standards Department at Cleveland Police, said: “Cleveland Police takes any unlawful disclosure of any personal information very seriously and works closely with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) when appropriate to do so, taking whatever steps possible to prevent the extent of any further disclosure once it is discovered.
“We also pro-actively monitor our compliance with the Data Protection Act and ensure that our staff’s access to police systems is done so lawfully and with a legitimate purpose –if this is found not to be the case either criminal or internal disciplinary action is always considered.”
Paul Garfoot, Professional Standards manager at Durham Constabulary, added: “I can confirm the report for Durham is accurate.
“There have been no breaches relating to senior police officers and the other staff involved in breaches have been dealt with in appropriate manner in accordance with the actual data breach.
“Durham Constabulary take breaches of data protection seriously and react to reports of this nature in an appropriate robust manner.”
Nationally, more than 100 staff were sacked and nearly 200 resigned as a result of breaches in England and Wales during a five-year period.
The figures were obtained by the Press Association under the Freedom of Information Act.
Police forces nationwide recorded a total of 2,031 cases of data protection breaches between January 2009 and October last year. Investigations led to 186 resignations, while 113 were sacked as a result of their behaviour.
Of those investigated, at least 34 were inspectors or chief inspectors, while 474 were deemed “staff” - civilian officers.